Written by Fajar binti Benjamin
“WELCOME TO THE LOSERS CLUB ***HOLE!” is among the tamer lines thrown out expertly by a gangly preteen in IT (2017) switching the entire theatre from bone chilling fear at the imminent death of beloved characters to hysterical giggles at the sheer pluck of these kids. So. you can imagine IT Chapter Two had a lot to live up to. That being said, IT Chapter Two, written by Gary Dauberman (notably the screenwriter for IT and Annabelle Comes Home) and directed once again by Andy Muschietti (who shall be directing the live-action adaptation of Attack on Titan!?) was fun, but bloated.
Kind of like the red balloon the film is so fond of utilizing as a harbinger of creepiness, the film is shiny and attention catching, yet at the end of the day, just full of compressed air. For a movie that is 2 hours and 49 minutes long, not much really happens, especially when compared to its predecessor. The previous movie served to invest us emotionally in the 7 main characters, the ‘Losers’, a gang of outcast teens with kickass bicycles, mouths pottier than gamer Youtubers, knobbly knees and roasts that’ll make you burn just from proximity. This movie assumed we loved them already, even as adults 27 years older, and proceeded to place them in a bunch of paranormally uncomfortable situations, most of the time to a more comedic than horrific affect, which while entertaining, did not progress their character stories or touch upon anything actually…frightening.
Children are scared of monster clowns, being eaten, filthy lepers, abusive fathers, the creepy painting in their parent’s office. Adults? According to this movie are still scared of the exact same things. I know this movie is set in the 2000s with the kids growing up at a time (1980s) before student loan debt became crazy, so Pennywise wouldn’t chase them around with the millenial’s worst nightmare: overdue payments. However other fears such as not getting far enough in life, divorce, having their own kids be injured, life-ruining scandals, or even switching from abusive father to abusive husband, would have made the fears in this movie more relatable and bone chilling. Even Richie’s fear of being outed is only touched upon in a shallow, slur-filled manner. As it is, the scares in this movie were shocking at best, goofy at worst.
While the horror aspect of this movie was a let-down, and the character-progression basically non-existent, they still managed to get one thing right (and it’s the best part too!). The character dynamics and banter are on point. It’s difficult not to gush over the perfection of the casting for the older characters. Rarely do we have a movie franchise wherein we’re introduced to the kids first with the adults being cast to match them instead of vice versa. The adult cast are not only somehow perfectly matched to the looks of the kids (as can be seen in this Buzzfeed article), they also happen to be some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy all in one movie? And with the returning cast of the ‘children’, notably Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Jack Dylan-Grazer (the best part of this year’s Shazam), the film had a LOT of talent on board.
This is reflected in how the film can seamlessly transfer us from the future to the past and back without the characterization being at all jarring or inconsistent. It was heartwarming to see the familiarity between the Losers on screen once again, sharing banter with gems like “You didn’t know I got married? Me and your mom are very happy.”, the sheer joy of watching them deal with a psychotic killer clown in that ‘is this for real?’ fashion, screaming, bickering and cursing (although it was a bit over the top at times). What made the previous movie so much fun to watch was still present in this one.
Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is once again a commendable performance. Despite this movie suffering from a severe overexposure to him, this time not even bothering to keep him in the shadows of the sewers but instead having him stroll about in broad daylight, the man still manages to give off enough “unhinged energy” for us to be fearful of him. It’s unfortunate that by midway through the movie, the set ups for each horror scene could be easily predicted from its repetitiveness and therefore held no anticipation or real build up and Skarsgard could not really showcase his talent to its fullest extent. Performance wise? Pennywise is still the stuff of nightmares.
When compared to its source material, the book ‘IT’ by Stephen King, who was pretty much constantly high when he wrote it, the movie falls short. The book was draggy, convoluted, and at times, too inappropriate even for an R-rated movie (kids should not be having orgies thank you very much). However, the atmosphere of the book, the emphasis on the real underlying horror, which is the people of Derry’s complete apathy to the horrors occuring around them, made for a horror story that would actually leave you with chills at night. The subtleties that occur in the book and the previous movie (think the librarian staring at Ben in the background, Bill’s father’s complete dismissal of Georgie, Bev’s father not seeing the blood in the bathroom) were completely missing from Chapter Two.
To conclude, IT Chapter Two was an entertaining, sometimes hilarious ride and worth it if you were already enamored by the characters in the first installation. However, it also went on for too long and wasn’t particularly scary. As a film, it was very cheesy, overly bloated with cheap scares, and too simplified from its complex source material. It’s up to you to decide if IT is worth it.