‘IT Chapter Two’ Supplies More Laughs Than Screams

In the sequel to the highest-grossing horror film of all time, jokes and feel-good moments soften any real feelings of horror.

It’s 27 years after the events of “It,” and most of our protagonists — the loveable Losers’ Club — have left Derry and forgotten all about Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). That is, until the attacks on Derry’s population start again and one member, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), summons them all back once more. In the years since, almost all have found lives outside of Derry. Stuttering, sensitive Bill (James McAvoy) now writes novels, Ben the romantic (Jay Ryan) has become an architect, foul-mouthed Richie (Bill Hader) is a comedian and anxiety-prone Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst. Beverley (Jessica Chastain) and Stanley (Andy Bean) have less clear backstories, but rest assured, they play key roles nonetheless.

The first scenes are all about gathering up our cast. The camera shows Mike calling and then carefully checking each character off a list of names, in an “Avengers”-style reassembly of the old gang. This scene sets the tone for the whole film, which tends to feel more like a triumphant superhero movie than a truly creepy horror film. In “IT Chapter Two,” scary scenes end in jokes and heartfelt appeals about the power of friendship — a little more Stan Lee than Stephen King.

In juxtaposition to the intensity of the movie’s predecessor, “IT Chapter Two” wasn’t particularly dark at all  — most of the horror came from somewhat predictable jump scares as opposed to the more haunting, sinister tone cultivated by the subtleties of “It.” In this sequel, directed by Andy Muschietti, the focus is all on the humor and catharsis built by an evaluation of each character’s childhood trauma.

The cast is picture-perfect, and critical consensus is that Bill Hader steals the show. I’d have to agree. The effects are a delight — spectacular and excessive in a way that big blockbusters always are. The camera is moving all the time, panning into bathroom stalls flooding with blood or zooming in on characters drowning in quicksand. This is a horror film with visuals that fully deliver.

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“IT Chapter Two” is a solid examination of how traumas wind their way into our subconscious, and how friendship and connection help us to overcome them. Science suggests loneliness can ruin your health, and decrease your life expectancy. In “IT Chapter Two,” loneliness gets you eaten by a killer clown. The film repeats again and again the importance of not acting alone and how sticking together will keep our protagonists alive. Early on, a nostalgic dinner reunion scene sees the leads laughing over Chinese food. Flashbacks show the young Losers spilling into a photo booth, laughing and piling on top of each other. 

“IT Chapter Two” is a satisfactory horror movie in that it discusses some horrific truths about life. Sometimes it hits the mark on these discussions (Bill Hader’s exploration of Richie’s childhood trauma), and other times it misses by a mile (the depiction of Beverly’s abusive marriage). Either way, this film offers something for every viewer: after all, it is a real and true R-rated horror film, with a touch more thought than the average big blockbuster.

“IT Chapter Two” is a film to see not for its innovation, but for the chance to marvel at splendid, liberally-placed big budget effects, to laugh at Bill Hader’s “your mom” jokes, and generally just have a good time. Worth the trip to the theater? I’d say so.

Email Sarah John at [email protected]

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