Stephen King is an author that never goes away even when he’s experienced something of a renaissance in pop culture. King’s “It” remains one of his most iconic and easily digestible novels, but peculiarly a book that needs drastic alterations to make it more palatable for film. Andy Muschietti had a bonafide challenge on his hands to deliver a two part film that confronted the terror of loss of innocence, and confronting the demons of the past. It all invariably comes dropping down on the Losers Club with the help of the mercilessly vile Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise, It has re-awakened to terrorize the town of Derry once more. Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways. However, kids are disappearing again, so Mike, the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home to hold true to their childhood oath. Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all… putting them directly in the path of the clown that has become deadlier than ever.
“Chapter Two” is a wonderful return to Derry tapping in to what audiences loved about the first film while also digging in to the more abstract elements of Pennywise’s mythology. With “Chapter Two” Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman explore the lasting scars childhood trauma can leave on us and how it consistently dictates who we become as adults. When we meet the Losers Club again, they’re fairly well off and successful, but are they really? Muschietti is able to coast through the introductions of the characters in their current state in awfully brilliant ways, diving back and forth in to the lives of these middle aged individuals that have all but forgotten Derry, Maine (often depicted as a Rockwellian nightmare). When Pennywise re-emerges, it’s subtle, but it’s also the depiction of a monster that’s even worse than he ever was.
Here, Pennywise is merciless, cunning, and vicious, and Muschietti delivers two especially sad moments of Pennywise preying on his victims. While Pennywise isn’t so much a character of malice, the moment he realizes the Losers Club is on the verge of re-uniting, his hunt for victims becomes a means of spiting them and conveying how vicious he can be and how they might be incapable of stopping him once and for all. If I had any complaints is that the threat of Henry Bowers is downplayed, as is the narrative’s plot twist involving one of the losers. It just seemed to have more of an emotional punch in the TV movie. In either case, “Chapter Two” excels in trying to keep the book as closely to the chest as possible, while also tackling the material that the TV mini-series quite couldn’t. Many of the beats from Bev visiting her old house, and the iconic dinner at the Chinese restaurant are included, but Muschietti draws them out for immense dread and build up of terror.
“Chapter Two” is beautiful in its meditation of the awe of childhood, and how we’re often victim to aspects of life we never fully understand, even when we’re adults. “Chapter Two” is brilliantly cast with an impressive ensemble that keep the film consistently compelling and horrifying. From James McAvoy as Bill, and Jessica Chastain as Bev; James Ransome and *Bill Hader are especially great as adult Eddie and Richie. The cast doesn’t just play adult versions of these children, but they obviously did the foot work, as the resemblance to the child actors is uncanny, especially when they even seem to mimic their idiosyncrasies and body language. “Chapter Two” is a wonderful return to King’s tale, one filled with jump out of your seat scares, heartbreaking drama, and yet another excellent turn from Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise.
Bring on the Super Cuts/Extended Cuts of both Chapters, Muschietti.