Two years after the wild success of "It," one of the most successful horror films of all-time, a film which brought about the Stephen King Renaissance we're currently in, Pennywise and the Losers Club return in "It: Chapter Two."
I'm not sure what happened between the first (which I loved) and second film, but this time around the formula feels forced and uninspired. While there is absolutely nothing that can replace the feeling of watching big budget horror unfold before my eyes, which clearly I live for, (please give us more of this, Hollywood) "It: Chapter Two" is missing the magic that made its predecessor work so unexpectedly well. Maybe it's the fact that we've seen 14 Stephen King adaptations since 2017. Maybe it's the fact that "It: Chapter Two" does the exact same thing as its predecessor, only 27 years later. Or, maybe it's just the fact that its predecessor caught irreplaceable lightning in a bottle. Whatever the case may be, while I did enjoy "It: Chapter Two," it failed to live up to the (admittedly) lofty expectations set by its predecessor and becomes nothing more than a (rare) big budget horror film that's ... Fine.
One thing I love about this film that is undeniable: it is wonderful to watch AAA list stars like Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader wander through horror set pieces.
Yes, the best part of this film is the fact that it is a big budget horror film, and the dark ages of the 2000s and most of the 2010s are still so recent that it still feels invigorating to watch it unfold before you. We, as a society, need more big-budget horror, stat. Let's see a solid psychological horror with Amy Adams at the helm. (No, "Nocturnal Animals" doesn't count.) Or, a film where Tom Hanks plays a creepy serial killer. (We can dream, right?) Watching James McAvoy navigate a funhouse (the scene from the trailers) was an absolute delight to watch, as was watching Chastain interact with a superficially kind old lady. The horror set pieces are grand and pragmatic, and their orchestrator, Pennywise the dancing clown, is as menacing as ever. Once again Pennywise is a terrifying and unstoppable villain, played manically by Bill Skarsgard, only this time he's treated as an established entity versus an unknown one, which, unfortunately, detracts from the overall film.
I'm really trying to put my finger on why this film doesn't work as well as the original did. I just re-watched the original one night prior to seeing "It: Chapter Two," and once again I loved it.
The set pieces all served the easily translatable narrative about overcoming your fears, with a relatable and identifiable core of misfits. The effects were huge yet delightfully cheesy. But here, the Losers Club feels recycled and reused. Rehashed in a narrative that feels almost identical to its predecessor. It just feel lazy and uneventful. I'm all for the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" narrative, but you have to give us at least some originality.
This time, Pennywise is a character you know and either love or loathe. The backstory to how he came to be is utterly ridiculous. (I know, the source material this franchise has to go off of is pretty ridiculous, but still.) So, you're left simply loving (or loathing) Pennywise because he's Pennywise the dancing Clown. He's no longer this new and unknown figure, he's just this ominous, sentient being our heroes have to kill. Maybe this sequel never had the chance to give us a "fresh take" on Pennywise. Maybe my expectations were too lofty to begin with -- but just doing the exact same thing again left me unfulfilled.
My Number: 5/10