Movie Monday: It Chapter Two, The Review
Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for It Chapter One & Two
For about a week now I’ve been trying to think of a way to explain how I feel about It Chapter Two. I didn’t want to start this review by saying I love the movie, because I don’t. I didn’t want to tell you that I hated the movie, because that would be a lie too. Bill Hader was hilarious. “The Losers” relationship was heartwarming in that addictive, feel good way that only on screen friend groups can be. The plot was full of Stephen King lore and references, and it even occasionally scared the shit out of me. So then what was wrong with it? It would be easier to show you.
Early in the movie Beverly Marsh returns to her childhood apartment to try and find a relic from her past. Anyone who has seen IT Chapter One remembers that apartment. It was the stage for the terrifying scenes of her father's abuse as well as where Pennywise traumatized her with murderous hair and gallons of blood. So when Beverly was welcomed across the threshold by an old woman who looks like she serves her cookies with a side of cyanide, the crowd in my theatre was on the edge of their seats.
You could almost smell the decaying, musty apartment through the screen as Beverly explores her childhood home, making her way across creaky floorboards towards the dingy bathroom. There’s a claustrophobic aura to the scene, like the apartment is closing in around you as Beverly gets closer to the green tiled linoleum restroom, creepy eyes staring at her from sepia photographs plastered along the yellowing hallway. Safe to say, It director Andy Muschietti had everyone ready to shit their pants.
So what does he do to capitalize on this terrifying, tense, set up? Does Pennywise bust in with his classic shit eating grin? Does grandma nasty pop up from around the corner? No, and no. Grandma gets naked and hits a fucking two step style jig behind Beverly in the hallway.
When I saw this in the theatre there was maybe a millisecond of silence, and then a voice somewhere behind me yelled, “Dude, what?!" and the whole place erupted in laughter, myself included. And honestly, I think that phrase might be the best way I can think of to describe It Chapter Two. The film constantly does this, setting up what could be great scenes and then completely shooting themselves in the foot, leaving myself feeling like, well, “Dude, what?!” Half the time I couldn’t even tell what their intention was. Did they want me to laugh at this corny ass dance? Or did someone on the It team actually think that was scary? I really have no clue. And I’m not sure if It Chapter Two does either. Jokes are inserted into what would have been the scariest moments, completely killing the horror movie vibe, i.e. when the zombie-leper violently spews chunks all over Eddie in the pharmacy basement. It Chapter Two just feels like it doesn’t know what type of movie it wants to be.
Other complaints? The many flashbacks to scenes of “The Loser Club” as kids felt out of place, like they are retelling the story of It Chapter One, a story that we've all already seen. And don’t even get me started on the climax. I didn’t think there was any possible way It Chapter Two could defeat Pennywise in a worse way than chapter one, but then I watched as The Losers yell “You’re just a clown!” at a giant, crab-like spider with Pennywise’s head until it melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. I can’t even think about it without cringing uncontrollably.
My biggest issue of all was put perfectly by Burb’s own Jack Martin (aka the Martian aka The Flow) who simply said “Way too much CGI.” Compared to It Chapter One Pennywise was barely ever in his classic clown form, instead portraying IT as everything from a contorted, humongous, decaying naked woman to the giant crab-like spider in the climax. If inserting jokes into every scary scene didn’t completely kill the horror aura, then you could count on a rampant overuse of CGI to come and finish the job. For example, the famous Losers Club reunion at the Jade of The Orient, one of the scariest moments from both "It" the novel and its original 90’s adaptation, had a CGI insect with a baby’s head on it careening around the room. It just looked too fake to be scary.
Now that I got all my technical complaints out of the way, I have to come clean. I kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit, loved this movie. Yes, the tone was insanely inconsistent and yes I wanted to yell “Dude, what?!” at the director every five minutes, but at the end of the day there was something about this movie that just made me feel, I don’t know, satisfied?
In an article two weeks ago, I talked about how so many Stephen King adaptations are watered down versions of the novels, afraid to embrace their riskier elements. It Chapter Two didn’t make that mistake. They add in some of the weirdest elements from the book like the ritual of Chud, Billy and Mike’s trip induced visions and Eddie’s Freudian relationship with his mom (the actress who plays Billy’s Mother is the same actress who plays his wife). Including these aspects of the book made the story's world feel so much more intricate, full and real that I found myself getting wrapped up in Derry and its merry band of grown up Losers.
The story lines that aren't in the books are surprisingly good too. The most obvious is the plot line (big spoiler) of Richie’s hidden feelings for Eddie. The scene that introduced this, a flashback to young Richie playing Streetfighter, led to probably the best Pennywise moment in the movie, and Bill Hader crying over Eddie’s death as the losers swim in the barons is the perfect bittersweet note to begin the movie's resolution. Other additions, like Pennywise chomping on a girl under the bleachers or making Bill watch as he swallows a Georgie look-alike in a house of mirrors are by far the most intense scares.
“So get to the point Evan, should I see this movie or save my money?”
I don’t think this movie is a masterpiece, or anything close. I don’t think it's an incredible horror movie and a slightly above average comedy at best. But do I think it’s worth a watch? Yes, I really do. It Chapter Two overcomes its flaws with great acting from every member of The Losers Club, intense character arcs and a beautifully bittersweet ending which reminds everyone that overcoming our fears isn’t one battle, but something you have to work on each and every day.
It Chapter Two ends with Billy starting to write a new book on his computer. The line visible on his screen is a direct quote from IT the novel that goes, “No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart,” and this is the way I feel about It Chapter Two. It wasn’t a good movie, it wasn’t a bad movie, but the characters set up shop in my heart, making me fall in love with every one of the Losers. Despite the movie’s glaring flaws, for this, going to see It Chapter Two is worth every dime.