Heartfelt Moments and Heart-Stopping Fear: A Review of IT: Chapter Two/by Jared Vardaman
Horror fans globally screamed with delight after the trailer for IT: Chapter Two released last spring. 2017’s first installment of the IT franchise was praised for its dramatic cinematography, unnerving images, and superb casting choices. Actor Bill Skarsgard, who plays the film’s toothy titular terror, even admits to being affected emotionally after playing the character. It was a horror masterpiece, and fans were desperate for more of the hilarious kids from Derry and Pennywise, the dancing clown.
I was a massive fan of the first film, and did my best to see its sequel on its opening weekend of Sept. 6. Yet due to a busy schedule, I was forced to see it a week after its opening. Many viewers did the same, or saw it multiple times, because three weeks after its initial release, it is still the number one movie in America. After watching the film, I now realize why it has received so much support from the horror community.
IT: Chapter 2 takes place 27 years after the first movie. After a Pennywise-related tragedy occurs, all of the original members of The Loser’s Club are summoned back to their hometown to honor the promise they made to each other so many years ago. All of your favorite characters are now grown and living their best lives, or so it seems, until they reconvene to take on the interdimensional feeder of fear.
This film in itself is completely different than the first film, all things considered. While it uses elements of the first installment, the second chapter has a more modern feel, which translates into a truly ominous effect: Pennywise is back, and he is a real and present danger in the lives of the main characters.
While the first film translated into a scary version of The Wonder Years, the second film looks and feels more like a 2019 horror film. The flashbacks are well done, and do a great job of reminding the audience that the events in the first movie had a lasting impression on the members of the Loser’s Club even into adulthood.
The film is much like the first film in the sense that it does a great job of mixing horror and comedy. The scenes of the group laughing and reminiscing are light and heartfelt, reminding the audience that despite the traumatizing events of their adolescence, they were all still best friends.
The scenes with Pennywise and his terrifying illusions and mind games are executed very well, first giving the audience the intense sense of dread that good horror movies are known for, and then satisfying horror fans’ natural, and sometimes a tad disturbing, craving for carnage with a jumpscare or a shock value scene. The storyline of the film plays into this setup well since there is an entire section of the movie devoted to each member retrieving a token of sentimental value from their childhood, and Pennywise showing up to wreak havoc on their emotions.
Another key aspect of this film is the grand scope of which it plays out on. The first film had short large-scale scenes, but the bulk of the movie had under five characters per scene, which made it more personal, and in some cases, scarier. IT: Chapter Two, while retaining some small-scale intimate scenes, opts for a larger, more objectively scary feel. This is necessary in the fact that it is the last chapter of the Loser’s Club adventure, and Pennywise, for that matter. Great examples of this are Eddie’s encounter with the woodsman statue, Bill’s scene with Pennywise at the carnival, and the final scene in which Pennywise’s true interdimensional demon form is revealed.
The film’s main point (aside from scaring the crap out of the audience) is overcoming your personal demons. In order to live your life to its fullest extent, you must put the past behind you. Your past does not define you, but it can control you. Pennywise is a metaphor for how fear and anxiety can use your past regrets to ruin, and ultimately destroy you. Fear will eat away at your soul and cause issues for you, your job, and your relationships for the rest of your life if you let it.
Overall, this film is a cinematic wonder and is a fulfilling ending to one of movie history’s greatest horror franchises. It tactfully balances heart and heart-pounding fright, and that is exactly what a scary movie needs in order to leave a lasting impression on the horror world. Yet in this horror fan’s opinion, it doesn’t live up to its predecessor. What it does do is give the audience an array of emotions and thought-provoking commentaries on the power of love and friendship, and that is not something you’d expect from a movie about a clown.