It Chapter Two (2019)

Directed by Andy Muschietti

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It Chapter Two is a strange, long mess of a horror movie that is nevertheless at times effective and affecting.  It tells the back end of the story begun in It (2017), with the Losers Club more than a little grown up.  Where they were just children in the first film, with their entire lives ahead of them, here they are at the beginning of what would seem to be a long spiral downward.

They are all around forty and showing signs of age, even if they are now played by attractive actors and given a wide variety of “successful” occupations.  In quick establishing vignettes we see that they are actors, comedians, business executives and the like.  Just about all of them live in large homes and in some way or another have an enviable set of living circumstances.

And yet everything is wrong.  We see how the trauma of their own pasts have stuck with them, and though it’s never commented upon none of the Losers Club have children.  It’s as if they are simply unable to support life because of, we learn, the large void inside their minds and spirits that they’ve never let go of.

But with all that said, they don’t exactly show obvious signs of stress and anxiety.  It’s there, to be sure, but they can’t even remember much of their childhood, including things the audience will remember quite clearly from the first film.

The point seems to be that they have this unbearable trauma but that it’s been suppressed, somewhere in the back of their mind.  It’s enough to make them feel queasy without knowing why, and yes while their lives are pulled from some sort of GQ magazine we’re led to believe that they are all seriously damaged.

It’s a strange balance that the film doesn’t quite pull off.  As we dig deeper into their own pasts and the events of the previous film we see just how much turmoil remains inside their minds.  But we’re also led to believe that this hasn’t much affected them in the years since.

The first film, in fact, ends on a lighter note, leaning to that whole 80s/childhood nostalgia thing that’s so popular these days.  It’s a moment that almost waxes poetic about their turbulent summer, even if it nearly killed them.  Then relatively early on here there is a nice scene in which all the old friends are back together for the first time, reminiscing and cracking jokes with each other.  This highlights an appealing camaraderie that the rest of the film mostly ignores until an extended epilogue tries to wrap it all up.

So this wants to be a hangout film but also a psychological horror movie.  And because each character is given a specific, concise trauma to deal with, they are split up for much of the movie.  They encounter Pennywise the Clown in various forms that speak to their own personal fears, and though each scene is a bit frightening and inventive, it tells the same narrative beat over and over again.

The plot here is just kind of odd, like a video game level.  We’re told there’s a way to defeat Pennywise, then they’re instructed to go on these side quests, then they team up to defeat Pennywise but through means that still remain vague to me.  Because of how abstract they are that climactic battle just felt a bit odd and underwhelming.

The film works a lot of the time, but it’s also nearly three hours long.  Moments of camaraderie that feel authentic work well, especially with the levity brought by Bill Hader’s winking, kind of meta commentary.  But some of the heavier qualities that weighs down other characters feels insincere and tacked on while they themselves are rather broad character types, defined by one quirk or another.

It’s an entertaining film with a world you might want to spend more time in.  It’s both nostalgic and horrifying, but the characters become fodder for a plot that feels a bit too fast and loose, messy in the middle before it all reconvenes in neat, bombastic set pieces that try to answer too many questions at once.

Up Next: The Abyss (1989), Back to School (1986), The Birdcage (1996)

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