‘IT Chapter 2’ has plenty of chills, but three hours worth is tiring
IT Chapter 2 is a pretty good two-hour movie stretched uncomfortably to three hours. A sequel to the popular and critically acclaimed 2017 horror film It, this film now completes the cinematic version of Stephen King’s 1,138-page novel of the same name.
Director Andy Muschietti seems to have wanted to shoot all 1,100 pages because this movie goes on and on and on. There’s a running joke in the film that one of its lead characters, a successful novelist, can’t ever come up with a good ending for his books. IT Chapter 2 tries to ward off that criticism by offering a handful of endings, none any more successful than the others. By the end, you may be wishing the evil clown Pennywise would put us all out of our misery.
Chapter 2 picks up 27 years after our band of self-proclaimed “loser” kids in small-town Derry, Maine defeated Pennywise in a battle for the ages: tweens on bikes versus the most malevolent of evil spirits. The kids swore back then that they were bonded for life but, of course, life intervenes and all but one long ago moved out of town.
Now, almost three decades later, Derry is again the scene of a series of barbaric killings and the lone remaining “loser” contacts the others to let them know Pennywise is back on the loose, and they’re all needed back in Derry to fight him, you know, once and for all. Now in their early 40s, these original Derry natives have all sorts of reasons for not wanting to return to Derry but return they do and yes, after much hemming-and-hawing, they all agree to battle Pennywise, you know, one last time.
In addition to them banding together to fight this evil, it turns out they each must conquer their own personalized demons as well — a demon buried deep in an individually repressed memory from that scary time 27 years ago.
“Everyone has two kinds of memories: the ones you show off that you’re proud of, and the ones you hide in places so dark they’re the hardest to walk away from,” one character says.
Of course, Pennywise is the very embodiment of each of these repressed memories, be they about guilt, abuse, or shame. And he remains as creepy and scary as ever, as he lures each of these now grown-up kids to confront their deepest fears.
Although it can get a bit laborious to watch all five of the “losers,” one at a time, go through their psychological confrontations, which include frequent flashbacks to their younger days, most of these scenes have enough chills to satisfy horror fans.
Unfortunately, this is all just a lengthy prelude to the group clash with Pennywise. For some reason, the “losers” become convinced they need to perform some kind of group “Ritual of Truth,” based on a lot of bogus Native-American mumbo-jumbo. None of this goes anywhere. It’s really just an excuse to turn the movie over to the special effects department for a ho-hum “monster” version of Pennywise and a ho-hum “Journey to the Center of the Earth” kind of battle with said monster. The director clearly loses sight of the fact that his best and most chilling special effects are that single red balloon and a little clown make-up.
Don’t get me wrong. There are pleasures to be had in IT Chapter 2. The adult cast is strong, with Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and especially Bill Hader. A nice streak of pitch-black humor runs throughout the film. And Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise can still send a chill down one’s spine. The only problem is, after three hours of chills, we’re more exhausted than exhilarated.