By Ryan Keating-Lambert
IT Chapter 2 focuses so much on grossing you out that it ends up achieving the complete opposite. Director Andy Muschietti must have a checklist. He’s GOT to have something like that because that’s how formulaic this ‘horror’ movie really is.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, IT Chapter 2 is set 27 years after the events of the first IT. After a series of suspicious deaths, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) encourages the Loser’s Club to come back to Derry and hunt down the evil shape-shifting clown ‘Pennywise’, who is back to wreak havoc on a new generation of children in Derry, Maine.
This film is first and foremost a film about the unspeakable horrors that we commit against each other and how we try to forget them. The opening scene, taken right out of the novel, sees a brutal gay hate crime (featuring French-Canadian actor/director Xavier Dolan) take place at a carnival in modern-day Derry. There’s also the brief introduction to the older Beverly (Jessica Chastain) who suffers from domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, and Bill (James McAvoy) continues to be tormented by ghosts of his brother, believing his death to be entirely his own fault.
Muschietti spends SO MUCH time (approximately 3 hours) on flashback sequences dwelling on these tragedies that at times it feels like a cheap soap opera. It’s tedious following around the kids in this film again. The Stranger Things/Goonies vibe of the 2017 film worked well as a nostalgia cash cow, but the adult cast which also includes Bill Hader as Richie, Andy Bean as Stanley, James Ransone as Eddie and Jay Ryan as Ben (who is actually Jack Scully from Australia’s Neighbours… what?) feel as though they’re just there as vehicles for the kids.
There’s also a prominent LGBT theme on the film as Muschietti and his producer wife Barbara make Richie’s character an in-the-closet gay man which was only hinted at in the book. But it feels a little insincere here, as if thrown in at the last minute to fulfill a quota. It has been a while since I’ve read the book though so maybe fans can correct me on that.
Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise and the other multitude of horrors that ensue over the lengthy runtime is more of the same and is void of suspense and leave absolutely NOTHING to the imagination of the viewer, as if we’re so clueless as to how to figure out a horror movie that everything has to be spelled out for us. Next time, perhaps we could avoid the three-hour run-time and instead summarise Muschietti’s future films with a single subtitle: ‘THIS IS A HORROR MOVIE. LOOK AT ALL THE BLOOD WE HAVE. JUST LOOK AT IT. INSERT SHOCK HERE’.
I can almost hear the director yelling off-screen – ‘Give me more blood! More gore! More more more!’. And the CGI… the Chinese restaurant fortune cookie scene is so awkward that even the actors look unconvinced. Add to that a bunch of forgettable sequences involving half-assed bully villain Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), who miraculously escapes from a Derry mental institution with a single knife, and you’ve got a film so bloody that it becomes unintentionally hilarious.
And when did we get to the point that replicating and copying an entire sequence of a famous horror film can be considered a ‘tribute’. It used to be the odd poster, character name or similar, but this IT manages to do an almost shot-for-shot remake of the famous spider scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing which just feels cheap and nasty.
This film put a bad taste in my mouth. Although there is still the odd slasher or monster movie that gets by with jump-scares and gore, there’s little room for IT Chapter 2 in the well-executed and thought-provoking horror of modern day which lies somewhere between Blumhouse production films by directors like Jordan Peele and James Wan, and timely art-horror films by talented newbies like Ari Aster.
Like the first one though, teens will love this and I’m sure they’ll be talking about it for years. If you go see it, make sure you do your bottom a big favour and get yourself a comfy seat.
Photo: The Verge