~Or~ It’s Odd When A Homicidal Demon Clown Lets You Down
It (2017) is something of a horror masterpiece: not just imagery but dread, atmosphere, threat and the terror of isolation the children in the adaptation of King’s novel faced was masterfully done. I loved the predecessor so I was genuinely baffled that its sequel, It Chapter Two (2019) was such a steady and consistent misfire from the start. If you’re more afraid of spoilers than Skarsgard’s demon clown, consider this your warning to turn back.
The chief failure of the film is established in the film’s opening, a gay couple attending a fair in Derry, Maine are assaulted by a group of bigots in the dark street, one of them beaten to a near unrecognizable pulp before tossed over a bridge into the river. His partner clambers down to the riverbank to try to rescue him just in time to see Pennywise take a bite out of his partner before disappearing behind a cloud of roughly 99 red balloons (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
You might think to yourself, as I did, ‘wow, that’s a helluva of a message go out on a limb for but a big one: regular ol’ humans are monsters all their own.’ That thought is never going to be revisited or justified in any meaningful way. We’re promptly treated to the expected run of scenes getting the gang back together of the losers in the present day, and it turns out that everyone’s doing all right more or less except Jessica Chastain’s Bev who, despite living in a lavish home with her husband is subject to a graphic scene of domestic violence for trying to leave to return to Derry when she receives the call.
No one else checks with their spouses, but Bev who does suffers abuse for it and has to flee her home in her pajamas into the rain. It’s odd, given Chastain’s reputation, that she participated in depicting what feels like a completely unnecessary depiction of domestic violence that serves no later plot of character development. It’s especially disappointing because that potential message they could have built to about humans being the real monsters? Never gets picked up after that 10th minute. Instead the rest of the bloated runtime (it’s just shy of 3 hours total), feels like “where are they now and what are they still coping with” fan fiction rather than the narrative closure to the Losers we met from 1989.
The tragedy of this is that the hype is real in one regard, Hader truly turns in a scene stealing performance. This only leads to further disappointment because Hader’s character’s spiritual walk about is mishandled and leads me to ask a question I didn’t expect to have to ask, but here we go: is Pennywise a homophobe? I’ll leave it at that.
It (2017) was much tighter and focused- the deaths and horror of Pennywise’s stalking and taking of lives made the town of Derry feel all the more dangerous even in the daytime for the Losers, it served to isolate the band and force them to live or die together. This one feels like tacked together ideas, and many of the horror moments this time around rely on jump scares rather than true dread or suspense, and often feel like filler- one young girl who gets killed is never acknowledged by the Losers or anyone else in the film again, so what was the point except for a neat idea with some subtle lighting effects?
It’s a true shame that a near masterpiece in horror is followed up with a bloated mess of a film, and even more a disappointment that it should flub so thoroughly on the takeoff with such depictions of hate crimes and violence that it doesn’t take even of a minute of its remaining two and a half hours to contextualize or address (seriously, Bev’s abusive husband and the gay couple are never mentioned again). Pass on this one folks, hopefully there’ll be better horror fare when we get closer to the harvest.