A bit heavy with horror for almost three hours, It Chapter Two has enough gore and allegory to challenge and titilate every patron.
It Chapter Two
Director: Andy Muschietti (It, Mama)
Screenplay: Gary Dauberman (It), based on the novel by Stephen King
Cast: James McAvoy (Split), Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)
Runtime: 2 hr 49 min
By: John DeSando
“For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you... I've missed you!” Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard)
It Chapter Two, set in quaint and vulnerable Derry, Maine, is one crowded horror film. And that’s saying something as it is the sequel to the already revered It by Stephen King. It has enough horror tropes such as jump scares, surprises, and toothy, reptilian monsters to keep the almost three hours humming.
However, enough is enough. After twenty-seven years from their introduction to the scary Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the Losers Club must return to face the horrific clown, and they hope, destroy It. Fortunately screenwriter Gary Dauberman and director Andy Muschietti include enough allegorical heft to keep this horror rampage from being just a visually hot mess.
That the club must individually shed its fears and weaknesses to defeat the clown is both a strength and a weakness: strong because allegorically we all have to do this purging to be mentally healthy, and weak because isolating the club members weakens understanding of their development relative to each other and their consuming past. In other words, they are better at self-reflection facing each other, and therefore their past, than going it alone.
Only too obvious is the film’s attempt to show how some memories, not always favored ones, linger for decades, powerful enough to draw the initial gang back to end the reign of the ghoulish clown. At various times a magnificent seven of them crowd the screen with their long-suffering hang ups such as cowardice and guilt, all in need of purgation.
King’s Carrie and Pet Sematary, two of my favs, are careful to keep the protagonists to a minimum whereas It Chapter Two weighs It down with minimal but provocative leitmotifs, e.g., Beverly’s (Jessica Chastain) abusive father or Bill’s (James McAvoy) relationship with his deceased brother. Any one of these concepts could be fleshed out at the expense of more trifling ones.
As in many action films, even with super heroes, the now commonplace theme of being who you are with courage gets overused as it does here. Compounding the sense of having seen it before are numerous monstrous visions, with sharp teeth and tentacled arms and legs for just a few of the stock monsters. Granted these are all manifestations of Pennywise’s ability to shape shift and the writers to locate character flaws in the characters.
It Chapter Two may suffer from trying too much, but, hey, that’s better than not at all. For Steven King devotees, this is nectar; for the rest, this is a long fun-house ride with allegory supplying the fuel. Of course, IT reminds that keeping and nurturing friendships is the surest way to send out the clowns.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com