Review: IT: Chapter Two
Issy Murray finds the return to the IT universe suitably frightening and enthralling.
Unlike the characters in IT, we didn’t have to wait 27 years for Pennywise the Dancing Clown to return, but the 2-year gap between the first and second installments was agonising enough for fans like me.
The film opens with a re-introduction to the members of ‘The Loser’s Club’. We see them all grown up, their new lives paralleling their childhood experiences from the first film. We are also reminded of the promise they made as children back in Derry: to come back if ‘It’ were to ever reappear. Having forgotten all about the trauma of that fateful summer, each character receives a phone call from Mike Hanlon, who stayed in Derry in case of It’s re-emergence. After a moving reunion, the nightmares quickly resume, and the heroes resolve to defeat It once and for all, the action cutting between individual confrontations with It and a series of flashbacks to the summer of 1989, where this story all began.
In Stephen King’s novel, the child and adult timelines run alongside each other. Director Muschietti avoids this complication by waiting to introduce the adult characters until the second film, and yet still remains true to the spirit of the novel. The Loser’s Club’s smooth transition from kids to adults is made only more compelling by the excellent casting; at times, it’s uncanny how brilliantly the film is cast in terms of the similarities between the young and adult actors in both appearance and mannerism. Particular praise is given to fan favourites Bill Skarsgård (playing Pennywise), and the hilarious Bill Hader (giving life to Richie Tozier, who Finn Wolfhard plays as the young Richie), but I think it’s worth also mentioning James Ransone, who provides particularly good comic relief as adult Eddie Kaspbrak and Nicholas Hamilton, who portrays an especially convincing and disturbing young bully as Henry Bowers. In fact, the only notable difference between the plots of the book and film is the choice to exclude It’s nemesis, the metaphysical turtle Maturin. Although this decision is probably a wise one, Muschietti cleverly hides some homages to the character within the film (keep a keen eye out for the appearance in Ben’s high school flashback scene!).
I think this is what really makes the IT films so enjoyable: the foreground may be preoccupied with being creepy and making the audience jump, but the attention to detail in the background means there are moments that you might not notice until rewatching. These extra elements are what adds to the excitement and spookiness surrounding the IT universe. Among these details in the second chapter, are references to other major horror films, such as Carpenter’s The Thing and King’s own The Shining, and cameos from King and Muschietti themselves. In this way, IT: Chapter Two seems self-aware, and in being so, does not shy away from playing into its humorous aspects- or, ahem, clowning around if you will. Many of the harsher critic reviews of the film, have cited that this turn to humour detracts from the film’s overall scariness, but I would argue that actually, all it does is make you invest in the characters, leaving you at the end of the film feeling as heart-warmed as scared. This, after all, seems to me to be the message behind IT; that fear is okay when you can find a more positive emotion to translate it into.
With Halloween just around the corner It: Chapter Two is a horror that mixes real-world problems with the supernatural; it is well-thought-out and does not rely on simply being frightening and therefore, I would highly recommend giving it a watch.