Many people have said that today is the age of horror for film, and no bigger success story proves that claim in recent years than Andy Muschietti’s version of It by Stephen King. The remake was a box office smash, and as soon as it entered theaters viewers were highly anticipating the second chapter. However, now that It: Chapter Two is finally here, I can’t help but think that the entire experience is a disappointment. Not only has it made average box office numbers and been given middle-of-the-ground reviews, but the film experience as a whole is underwhelming and doesn’t compare to the entertaining first installment.
To be fair, Muschietti and crew had to achieve quite a bit to stick the landing here, and the one thing they get pitch perfect is the casting for the older versions of the Losers Club that audiences came to adore in the first film. The now grown-up kids must return to their hometown of Derry, Maine in order to stop the evil entity/Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) from terrorizing the town and killing more children. All of these actors not only give compelling dramatic and sometimes comedic performances, but they also are spitting images of their younger counterparts. As soon as the actors appear on-screen near the beginning of the film, I had no problem believing they were the same people as in the first chapter. Even though the chemistry isn’t quite as natural as before, it still works and it feels like viewers are being immersed in the same world.
Acting-wise there are no weak links: in fact, the talented cast should have been relied on more than other disappointing aspects of the production. However, the obvious standout is Bill Hader as the older Richie Tozier, who is the comic relief character in both films. Hader lands all of his jokes, which is to be expected given his SNL background, but he also tugs at emotional heartstrings when he needs to, showing that he has a far larger range than he is given credit for.
The cast alone is better than the rest of the entire film. While the direction isn’t awful, it seems that Muschietti used up all of his good ideas in the first film, for It: Chapter Two contains none of the good scares and related creativity of its predecessor. Only one scene was memorable and effective, but almost every other jump scare was predictable and tired. By the time the first third of the film ended, I was sick of seeing the same scene over and over again: character noticing something is off, character following the sound of an anomaly, character walking through a dark room while the audience waits for a jump scare, KABLAM!!, then character is scared by “it” until it suddenly goes away or something happens, etc. Almost every scene in this two hour and 45 minute horror film follows that formula, and it gets old really fast.
Pacing is the core of why It: Chapter Two is such a difficult film to sit through. The movie takes almost an hour to set up the older versions of characters we have already met, and once it finally finishes it doesn’t know where to go. The second act is just scenes of characters randomly encountering the integral creature with the plot advancing little to none until the final battle in the third act. The climactic confrontation should be where the story finally picks up, but I was honestly so sick of the movie by this point that the entire time I was just checking the time and hoping it would end soon.
Somehow there are more jumpscares in It: Chapter Two than in most recent movies, but it feels as if nothing happens from beginning to end. This film is about as long as The Godfather. Muschietti needed to have a specific vision and message in order for it to feel warranted, but his work comes across like a boring funhouse attraction without an actual point or even any scary aspects to draw people in.
It doesn’t help that this chapter doubles down on the structural problems and stupid character choices of the first film. Cliché “horror movie decisions” are constantly made, and when the characters get out of every scenario despite their dumb decisions, the stakes are lowered because no actions have consequences. The realism of the story is compromised early on, so when the movie tries to portray realistic situations it never sticks with the audience. The film isn’t tight and doesn’t have any great scares, which will turn horror fans off, but it also doesn’t have intense meaning or purpose, which will turn everyone else off. It: Chapter Two is a very ambitious film, but very little of it satisfies any target audience.
While the first It film adheres to a lot of horror clichés, it still manages to captivate and entertain enough that it is a rewatchable experience. After watching Chapter Two, the last thing I wanted to do was even think about anything involving the town of Derry. That’s not to say it is an awful experience, but the ending could not have come any faster. Leaving the theater was refreshing, which is a damn shame given how anticipated this film was and how much work was put into it. An entire 30-45 minutes could have been cut from the end product and the plot would probably not have changed much.
It: Chapter Two is a bland haunted-house horror film with the mentality of a Martin Scorcese film. Making an ambitious film like this deserves credit, but it somehow still manages to play it safe during every turn. Even though the cast and the director have serious talent, none of it is memorable due to the severe issues with pacing and plot development.
I give It: Chapter Two a C-.