The second chapter of Stephen King’s IT has a lot to wrap up. 27 years have passed and the Loser’s Club is now all grown up and they need to finally conquer their fears and grief. And considering the entire story of IT is thick enough to have the strength of two doorstops, the film is naturally a beefy run-time of nearly three hours. While such a length certainly gives us plenty of time to get to know and root for the grown-up losers, Chapter 2 would prefer to spend more time staging creepy scenes of Pennywise terrorizing tediously.
A Surreal Reunion
27 years have passed and the Loser’s Club has gone their separate ways. The murderous and supernatural clown of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), however, is still up to his old tricks. He seeks out the weak and takes advantage of their fear, luring them close enough and then chowing down on them for a bloody snack. The times may have changed but Pennywise’s targets remain the same, at one point devouring a beaten-up gay man.
While the rest of the Loser’s left the town of Derry where Pennywise resides, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) stuck behind to research the reason why a supernatural clown from the sewers is killing kids and how he can be stopped. There’s a whole bunch of crazy stuff about Native Americans and aliens but the bottom line is he needs his friends to stop Pennywise. Bill (James McAvoy) is now a writer both accomplished and struggling, never quite finding the right ending. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) has just recently gotten out of an abusive relationship, reflecting her tragic childhood of an unstable father. Most of the characters have essentially remained the same. Eddie (James Ransone) is still a pensive person and Richie (Bill Hader) still a goof.
What also hasn’t changed is their fear that they still haven’t conquered. And if they hope to defeat Pennywise, they’re going to have to return home and face that which frightens them in some form or another. The problem with this type of setup with so many characters is that the entire second act turns into a predictable collection of scenes where characters confront their past in Derry. They’ll revisit an old place, have a somber memory, be spooked by Pennywise, and then run off to plan the next attack. Every single character gets their own sequence that is placed back to back with plenty of expected jump scares and surreal visions. With nothing to break up these scenes, there’s little ebb and flow to the horror, comedy, and tender friendship.
A Messy Mash
The first film felt like a progressive flow of supernatural terror and nostalgic warmth. Chapter 2 feels more like a cobbling of good scenes that never amount to a great movie. Dissected into bit and pieces, there are many individual moments that work rather well. The surrealness is still staged beautifully. One gravity-distorting vision features Beverly being trapped in a bathroom stall flooding with blood. Some scenes end up falling flat. Bill struggles to save another kid from Pennywise by trying to keep him away from sewer drains, screaming and shouting at the kid to get off the street. As if Pennywise would bother repeating such kills. He’d much rather slaughter kids in a house of mirrors for distorting perspective.
I do appreciate the levity placed in the film once more in various forms, though mostly delivered by a flawless Bill Hader. Some scenes are flat-out comedy skits as when Eddie and Richie try to pick which scary door to pursue in Pennywise’s maze. But with such inconsistency in tone, many of these moments come off like segments from different movies. One moment the heroes are running away from a towering clown taking advantage of their fears, the next it’s Eddie and Richie’s bumbling buddy plot of trying to decide if tiny dogs are scary. At least there’s a cute cameo from Stephen King in a scene that could use some charm.
I can’t help but feel that IT Chapter 2 may have benefited from either being 3.5 hours long or divided up for a Chapter 3. There’s quite a bit that works here but the piled-on story leaves little room to explore much aside from its well-staged scares. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more history behind Pennywise but there’s only so much time for this that Mike gives us the cliff notes version. I dug the love triangle aspect but there’s little time for romance when a murderous clown is on the loose. This is such a frustrating film because it could be a stellar surreal horror with a strong message. If only it took some time out from its clowns, zombies, and supernatural creatures to let us enjoy more of the characters over the course of three hours.
Have you seen the movie yet? If so, did you think it was all about the scares? Was it too long? Did you think the actors lacked chemistry?
Let me know what you thought about IT Chapter 2 in the comment section below. You can see IT Chapter 2 in theaters now wherever it is you see movies (AMC, Regal, etc.). If you liked this review, check out more of my movie reviews by clicking here.