Reel Reviews: ‘IT Chapter Two’ is scary enough

By on September 11, 2019

In 1988 Rob Base said, “It takes two to make a thing go right / It takes two to make it outta sight.” That was about the same time I was reading “IT,” the novel by Stephen King.

The book is a horror classic and clocks in at over 1,000 paperback pages. its level of depth is one of the reasons it has been so hard to make into a successful film representation. But in 2017, a team of screenwriters (Chase Palmer, Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman) teamed up with director Andy Muschietti (who first horrified moviegoers with “Mama”) to turn out a film accepted by new and old fans.

Two years later, Muschietti is back with “IT Chapter Two” and puts an end — or better yet, an ending most can accept — to the creepy clown terrorizing the small town of Derry, Maine.

Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back! After 27 years of hiding, the children of Derry are once again in peril as the murderous clown with an attachment to red balloons has decided to unleash his horror once more. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) is the lone member of the Losers’ Club (all of whom we met as a children in the first movie) to remain in Derry into adulthood. Standing watch as the lone sentry, Mike puts out the call to the rest of the pact-members after Pennywise devours a town visitor.

No longer “lucky seven,” only six surviving members of the Losers’ Club return to Derry to confront “IT.” The actors are (left to right) Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa, and Jay Ryan.

Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain) is a wife in an abusive relationship — the attraction to which she developed with the help of her father. Richie Tozier (Bill Hader of SNL fame) is a stand-up comic. Chubby Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) is now a handsome hunk of manhood. Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) is still a vulgar “momma’s boy.” And our fearless leader, Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), is a horror writer who is criticized for writing poor endings … sound familiar?*

The old friends descend on Derry, except for Stanley (Andy Bean) who has committed suicide rather than face the fear waiting for him in his hometown. None of the grown kids can remember much about their time in Derry until the force of evil turns a friendly night out at a Chinese restaurant into a grotesque manifestation of horror. The battle ensues, with each character having to find and relive a piece of their past. This leads to some genuinely scary bits of side action before we get to the main event of killing the clown, who we learn is a … well, I won’t spoil it, but I will say it’s not a giant space-spider.

“IT Chapter Two” is chock full of creepy, but is also strewn with bits of unnecessary gadgetry. Looking back, I’m a bit confused at what Muschietti was trying to accomplish with some of his methods, i.e. hate crime violence, contradictory music, a heavy fascination with pedophilia; it’s almost like two or three directors took turns throwing bits of their own style and experimentation into this movie.

Did the sequel “go right?” Well, it went better than the TV movie of 1990. It’s probably one of the better Stephen King adaptations (yet, still not in the same league as “Cujo” or the original “Carrie”). Was the film “outta sight?” Meh. Nothing is ever going to beat the novel with this one.

*That familiarity is King’s own. The end of “IT” itself, in novel form, is often derided. Well, the Master of Horror himself makes a lengthy cameo appearance in “IT Chapter Two” where he plays a shopkeeper. He recognizes famous writer Bill Denbrough, overcharges him for the return of his bike, and chastens his writing for having poor endings. Tongue in cheek, much?

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Michael Upton took this photo of the gate at Stephen King’s home. He says that fans regularly leave a red balloon there, an homage to their favorite writer.

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