Two years between movies might be too long. IT Chapter Two, in terms of its prequel, is consistent; yet I’m bummed it doesn’t show the restraint of the TV movie or show signs of that version’s fun and veers into extraneous nightmare territory.
The Losers Club, most of whom moved away from Derry and don’t remember their childhoods, return to deal with evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) once and for all. To do so, they have to face their fears and perform a Native American ritual that proves the town has dealt with the clown’s reign of terror for centuries.
Despite it being payback time, just when you think they’ll move on from the 80s, the Club’s younger years are rehashed — mostly to make up for what didn’t make it into the first one. A cast as good as the inclusion of James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain should stand on its own.
Director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman do a decent job of staying true to the last IT but, aside from a strong adult cast to stand in for the juvenile Losers, Chapter Two is more of the same. It’s violent, grimy, gooey, in your face, uncomfortable, and malicious. The mean-spiritedness is doubled down upon, in fact, from the very beginning. A big problem in horror today is the failure to recognize the separation between real terror and wanton victimization.
Other times IT tries to be funny and fumbles the ball except when Bill Hader is on screen. He adds character and heart when the story needs it most.
Muschietti, to his detriment, is obsessed with the same creature design in his movies. All his ghosts, demons, and terrorizing entities are gaunt and decaying corpses. Pennywise’s proxies, such as the old lady, fit this bill with a few variations. Some are colossal such as the lumberjack eyesore — a goliath that was supposed to be in the first one — or insectoid like Pennywise’s “true form” from the miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, including one callback to John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The trailers, honestly, make them scarier since we don’t get a good look at them. Things are censored or cut to avoid spoilers. In the final product, they’re obvious CG creations framed uncomfortably close and they spew all kinds of projectile vomit and creepy crawlers.
There are unexpected cameos and parts amounting to cameos. Peter Bogdanovich shows up as himself directing a fake movie. Why? I’m not sure but if you recognize him it’s a nice surprise.
Stephen King guest stars as an antique dealer in a very Stan Lee-style cameo and his performance isn’t bad. If his books continue to get re-adapted King should take a cue from Lee and keep the cameos coming.
Oh, and remember how we thought Andy Bean was on to bigger and better things after Swamp Thing. His character, the adult Stanley, has a strong presence but Bean is barely in the movie. King fans will recall Stanley is the one who kills himself when Pennywise returns. Bean shows up long enough for that, does some narration, and that’s about it.
Fear of Clowns
I don’t find clowns that scary especially when they are overemphasized as such. They can be bizarre but that’s about it. What makes Pennywise scary isn’t that he is a clown — and he isn’t actually a clown, by the way. He’s a shapeshifting creature, a maneater that becomes what you fear. And as fear itself, the clown motif is not a big deal.
Bill Skarsgård does his best and will go down as doing one of the creepiest performances in history but he lacks the charm and repartee of Tim Curry who is peerless and timeless. Big things await him — he may even end up playing the Joker — but that’s as much in spite of IT as because of IT.
Unlike some characters who interact with Bill Denbrough (McAvoy), I liked the ending. Unfortunately, the muck you have to wade through to get there is grim, unpleasant, and too familiar. A good cast tries but can’t elevate the material which doesn’t add anything new.
IT Chapter Two is already disappointing people who liked Muschietti’s first outing in 2017. Who should really be disappointed are fans of the original TV miniseries. Muschietti ups the scares and improves a few things but doesn’t have the touch of Tommy Lee Wallace and Tim Curry, budget notwithstanding.
Bottom line, Pennywise isn’t very funny or scary. Hopefully, Joker is better.
- Bill Skarsgård at least turns in a good performance
- Bill Hader steals the show and is a better actor than you knew
- Set design
- Visual FX
- Scares and creatures are the same we always get from Muschietti
- Too nasty and mean-spirited for no reason