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'It: Chapter Two' (2019) Review: Sink Like a Lead Buffoon

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader in, "It: Chapter Two."

James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader in, "It: Chapter Two."

Filthy Little Children

It: Chapter Two has Pennywise return to Derry 27 years after the events of It. The blood pact the Losers Club made as kids also brings them back to the hometown they’ve all but forgotten. They swore they’d do whatever it takes to stop Pennywise once and for all, but how do they go about doing that when he’s as powerful as ever and local children are once again his delicacy?

This world where both chapters of It takes place is cruel and heartless to a scary extent. Mostly residing in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, older teenagers and adults are viciously mean and violently nasty to the point where it’s practically inhuman. You likely rectified this thinking that it only brought those lucky enough to be a part of the Losers Club closer together. These kids attempting to survive on their own seems like suicide; an uphill battle that would leave them bloody and beaten. Staying together as a group is what made life tolerable and never leaving each other’s side meant they always had each other’s backs. They say there’s strength in numbers and the Losers Club could take on the world one psychopathic clown at a time; broken bones and loss of crucial bodily functions be damned.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise.

At nearly three hours in length, It: Chapter Two is a lot to process. The film is apparently more accurate to the book than the 1990 TV miniseries, but whether that’s a good thing or not is entirely up to you. Pennywise’s origin intertwines with Native American folklore and the bizarre cosmic jargon. It: Chapter Two spews at you like a peyote-laced fever dream. The sequel/second half rests on a Native American ritual Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) was introduced to during a Native American bender he experienced while the other Losers were off living their own lives away from Derry. and requires participation from them all in order for it to work. All of this playing out on screen isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it is certainly a kind of ominous and strange kind of peculiar.

There also seems to be less Pennywise this time around, which results in less actual horror. It: Chapter Two simply isn’t scary. It’s an odd thing to say since Pennywise seems to devour more children than in the previous film, but so much time is devoted to the Losers hemming and hawing over whether they should stay in Derry or not, finding their trinkets/special items for the ritual, and reacquiring their forgotten memories that Pennywise feels secondary. Where and when he’ll show up is part of the fun of the film, but you’re left craving more solely because Bill Skarsgard is so memorably haunting in the role.

A Clown's Utopia

The cast is easily the best and most enjoyable aspect of It: Chapter Two. For this being his introduction to the horror film genre, Bill Hader is ridiculously great. He’s funny, sincere, and inappropriate –a genuine and unfiltered motor mouth that basically annoys his way into your heart. James McAvoy brings this panicked intensity to the role of Bill, Jessica Chastain seems to be floundering in her poor life choices as Bev, and Kevin Ransone nearly steals every scene he has thanks to his neurotic behavior and outrageous interactions with everyone and everything around him.

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The terror manifestations and their execution are hair-raising and mind-bending in It: Chapter Two. The camera caters to what movement would best discombobulate the audience like Bill entering the funhouse, Bev in the bathroom stall, and Ben in the clubhouse. These sequences are creepy, reality-warping, and intriguing but they still fail to scare you. It’s a stripped-down version of what Inception was aiming for while being much more grounded in comparison. Questioning whether or not something is real in It: Chapter Two also factors into the film’s ability to shatter expectations.

Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, and Chosen Jacobs in, "It: Chapter Two."

Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, and Chosen Jacobs in, "It: Chapter Two."

Many reviews are stating that It: Chapter Two feels clunky and that it’s as if director Andy Muschietti tried to cram an entire miniseries into a 169-minute film. It’s difficult to argue those points. There is a lot of dialogue to sit through, a ton of setup that doesn’t play out until later, and a general anxiety that is more focused on what could be there rather than what is or isn’t but It: Chapter Two never feels boring. The film’s inclusion of a Native American/astrological fused origin of a shape-shifting cosmic evil with the ability to manipulate reality and be invisible to adults is odd, unique, and teeters on the brink of absurdity. Chapter Two isn’t as enjoyable as the 2017 film, but it’s also quite different in comparison. The young and adult ensemble casts have such palpable chemistry with one another and Bill Skarsgard injects a vigorous jolt to the beating black heart of a maniacal clown.

This is an unusual film to process since it doesn’t really deliver on scares, but it also gives life to the weirdest parts of the source material, which deserves some sort of recognition. It: Chapter Two is a cryptic head-scratcher of a second half and it’s likely to be completely off-putting to casual moviegoers. For those willing to stick with the Losers until the bitter end, It: Chapter Two is incredibly bold, overwhelmingly bloody, and an undeniably bonkers slice of cosmic pie.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in, "It: Chapter Two."

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in, "It: Chapter Two."

© 2019 Chris Sawin


Raziel Reaper from Hyrule on September 08, 2019:

I am yet to watch this one, but I remember the first movie. Back then whenever asked about It, the one thing that stuck me was that the movie wasn't particularly scary (and from what I hear, neither this one); rather, to me It felt like an "anti-horror movie". Instead of scaring its audiences off, It:Chapter One felt like it was trying to "teach" the audience that there is nothing to fear - that you must fight your fears rather than submit to them.

Not sure when I'll get to watch the second movie, but I do wonder how would it be for me.

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