Warning: Spoilers ahead. People who’ve read the book upon which a movie is based on, tend to not-so-subtly remind you that they’ve done so. I am no different. As someone who, ages ago, read and then subsequently forgot most of the Stephen King book this movie is based on, I went into IT Chapter 2 remembering only bits and pieces of what’s to come.
The opening scene, omitted from the 1990 movie, perhaps for being too controversial at the time, shows a hate crime taking place. A gay couple is brutally beaten. During the attack, one of the victims is thrown over the bridge into the running water below. He survives (barely), only for Pennywise to munch into him as his boyfriend watches helplessly. Thus proving that the evil clown is an equal-opportunity murderer when it comes to snacks. He doesn’t just eat kids, he merely prefers them.
To recap, an ancient evil lurks beneath the sewers of Derry, Maine. This shapeshifting being commonly uses the form of Pennywise the clown, and resurfaces every 27 years to feast on the townspeople. A group of ragtag kids (branded ‘The Losers Club’ by themselves), manages to overcome their individual and collective fears to hurt Pennywise enough to drive him away, albeit temporarily. They all make a pact to come back and finish the job, should he ever resurface.
Cue Chapter 2. Here we are, 27 years later – all the Losers have moved out of Derry, except Mike, who clearly has an unhealthy obsession with Pennywise. It is he who recognizes the signs that the killer clown is back and makes calls to the old gang to guilt-trip them into coming back, to fulfill the pact from Chapter 1.
The rest of the Losers are all successful in their respective fields. The slightly infuriating part is that none of them fully remembers what happened after leaving. This is conveniently explained off by Mike, who alleges that the further away they are from Derry, the more they’ll forget. However, all are compelled enough to make the trip back, based on gut instinct alone. Well, almost all. Alas, one of the gang, Stanley, decides to (in his own words) take himself off the board. This is explained further at the end of the movie.
On their first night back in town, they meet at a Chinese restaurant, where they attempt to catch-up and make sense of why they’re even there to begin with. They also receive the worst fortune cookies ever. A promise of the psychological torture that’s about to transpire, surely. Atleast Pennywise was kind enough to wait ‘til after the meal before toying with their sanity. Also nice to see Asian beer shown on screen for a change.
The short-lived joy at reminiscing turns into regret soon enough, as they decide they’ve had enough of Pennywise’s mind-games & tricks and try to float on out of Derry, but Mike, with the help of Bill, manages to convince them to stay.
Mike’s plan revolves around something called the Ritual of Chüd, which he gleaned from the native Americans who used to reside in the area. Bill is the only one who’ll even listen to crazy Mike’s plan and Mike promptly rewards him by drugging him with a handy hallucinogenic root to force him to see a vision of how the native Americans used the ritual against Pennywise. Ofcourse, Mike casually fails to mention that they all died fighting him. No big deal, right?
‘Artifacts’ from the Losers are required for the ritual and each member splits up and goes around town trying to find a piece of their past. A majority of this movie’s excessive (and also unnecessary) length owes to the various flashbacks that the adult characters experience, essentially bridging the gap between the chapters. This is also where the movie fails, as several subplots seemingly go nowhere and should have been left on the cutting room floor.
As expected, there’s a bunch of 80’s nostalgia peppered in throughout the movie, from songs to movie posters (Is that a Lost Boys on the wall?) to Meg Ryan hair jokes. Fortunately it wasn’t overbearing like how some other TV shows (*cough* Looking at you, Stranger Things) or movies tend to be.
The teen cast of Chapter 1 felt like they gelled so much better as a unit. The same can’t be said for the adult cast, but the stand-out here is definitely Bill Hader, who provides some much needed comic relief and nails every scene he’s in.
Eventually the plot culminates into the final battle between the Losers and Pennywise, whose own brazenness and over-confidence leads to his downfall. Well, that and also the Losers discovering that the age old adage ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’ rings true.
It’s unclear if the ritual ever helped or if the Losers’ bravery was what did Pennywise in, but the unsatisfying conclusion and, to some extent, convoluted plot ensure that this movie is simply not as good as its predecessor. Overall, a somewhat entertaining movie, but that’s all that can be said about IT Chapter 2.
Image from Warner Bros. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Clown.