My, could I not wait for the kids all grown up to have another chance to take down the sadistic clown. That final fight scene in the first is still in my opinion one of the best final showdown horror fights since Brody got retribution for chomping his shipmate Quint down to size alive in 1975. (I just did two unintentional rhymes in this opening paragraph. Hee-hee-hee…) And now it’s time to dive back into the teeth.
A curse is rumoured to slumber within the town of Derry, a rumour proven correct, at least to seven outcasts, when back in 1989, Pennywise opened his eyes after 27 years imprisoned in a who-knows-where dimension. He’s supposed to awaken every 27 years to terrorize kids before going back to rest, and he manages to impersonate the fear of anyone and everyone he’s able to get to talk privately with. Of course, everyone refers to him as It. Well, Bill, Bev, Ben, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stanley got into It’s business when Bill went looking for Georgie and found where he would’ve gone ashore, and their investigation landed them into It’s sewer pipe. They defeated It but promised they would return back to Derry if It ever returned. 27 years later, everyone in that original group (well, almost everyone) has moved elsewhere and is living normal lives (almost too normal). Some of them stayed, and some of them were unable to get past their PTSD of that night almost three decades ago, and now that it is the 27-year-mark, when some brand new killings reach the nose of now-40-year-old Mike, he has to get the gang back together to perform a ritual that should not only kill It again, but supposedly for good. One hiccup; some of them aren’t as on board as he is. Some of them don’t follow at all. And some of them have already given up…so what will it take to get geared back up?
I gave an A- to the original It, even though I ashamedly admit I forgot the names of every one of these characters, minus the stuttering Bill, because my name is Will, and the name of his late younger brother Georgie. You just can’t forget the name of someone found at the bottom of the earth with his hand unfreshly cut off and transforming from nostrils to muscles to legs to Pennywise. Point is, I remembered most of what the kids looked like but I forgot their names and personalities. But if you’re like me and you want to see this film but want to catch back up with the characters by going back to the original, you can do that, but pretty soon you’ll not only remember but feel like you never left.
This is a nearly three-hour movie, and for the most part the long length works in its favour, which is more than I can say for lots of other movies. In fact, two hours and fifteen minutes is generally my limit on movies. There are some traits to this that don’t aid the long length, so let’s get those out of the way first. And this coincides with a story element I felt was unnecessary. The characters that left Derry got a fantastical memory loss when growing up. Everyone but Mike and Stanley, who didn’t leave, forgot the name Pennywise. Some could argue that allowed these people to live their lives without PTSD; living healthily, and that everyone would be well equipped at that point to handle It, and that wouldn’t have been as exciting. Still, this obviously causes us to be miles ahead of the characters, so we kind of want their memories to just resurface and let them kick ass.
Also, every individual main character gets put through a horror by Pennywise, and each of them have very effective jump scares, especially one with Richie (his grown-up version hilariously played by Bill Hader), when we least expect a jump. In fact, with so many horror movies piling up on the fake scares, it’s refreshing to have a scare that means if they don’t get their butts away from that thing, they’re going to be choking on their intestines in five seconds. Getting one every three minutes is half refreshing, half exhausting. Sometimes it’s better to let the audience take a breather to prepare for the final showdown rather than keep trying to catch us off guard. Also, I noticed a few scenes that could’ve easily been cut to make this film about 15 minutes shorter, especially an overly obvious abduction scene, and one with the grown-up and young Bill in the same shot.
So that said, for a sequel over thirty minutes longer than the first, this is a very good companion to its horrifying box-office record breaker predecessor. The best part is when a scare happens, we’re treated to something as graphic as it is inventive. So many regular things, like elders and rabbits get hit with instantaneous muscle-growth hormone, and seeing them walk and slither and strut around with the characters right near them is just plain creepy.
The film’s constant tension also allows us to invest in every individual, looking at how they’ve changed and stayed the same even more after 27 years, and their revisiting of their childhood is a great way to let people think about maybe a road trip back someplace they loved at their age. Maybe a little dig through some old drawings in your filing cabinet.
And the casting; my goodness, I knew Jessica Chastain as Bev was the most logical choice to have as the grown-up Sophia Lillis, and I forgot how good James McAvoy can be in an American accent being the grown-up Jaeden Martell. Bill Hader is the most hilarious and outgoing for sure as well. There’s not a single bad performance to be found.
I also appreciated the LGBT acknowledgement in this film. It actually begins with two grown men unashamedly kissing, though it ends terribly, in a way where I wish there was more comeuppance in the end. There was also a guy-to-guy crush within the group I must’ve either missed in the first It or forgot about that’s brought up again here. How serious it is taken makes me happy knowing more stories centred around gays and lesbians will be in future high-budget releases.
As for Pennywise, at this point, somehow he’s less scary now. Maybe it’s because we know his tricks, or we know he can be beaten. Fortunately, It: Chapter Two has many tricks to keep us excited and caring about what would happen to these people. Normally, a film over 150 minutes will make me want it to end, but thanks to how much we love these relatable and brave characters that have suffered so much, and how amazing the actors and their younger counterparts are, this is a popcorn-worthy half to the adapting of the Stephen King bestseller.