by Matt Christopher
The success of “It Chapter Two” was there for the taking: a film based on a bestselling novel by the king of horror himself, a cast of capable, if not excellent, actors, and the iconic blueprint of all things scary rolled into the form of a terrifying and psychotic clown.
The writers, directors, and producers of “It Chapter Two” managed to destroy any semblance of enjoyment with an abysmal movie. “It” (2017) was a letdown, with expectations of it being an all-time great; the results were just okay. “It Chapter Two” is an abject failure that offers nothing in the way of entertainment value or long-standing cinematic stature.
Based on the classic 1986 Stephen King novel, “Chapter Two” continues where the 2017 movie left off. Twenty-seven years have passed, and The Losers Club, now adults, must return to the ominous town of Derry, Maine to once again battle the demonic Pennywise. ‘Sneak peeks’ and trailers made the movie look like a great horror tale. Sadly, the handful of scenes in the trailers are the only decent parts in an otherwise ungodly long mishmash of a boring movie.
A negative aspect of the book is its notorious length. The movie goes out of its way to replicate this with its three-hour run-time, and you’ll feel every minute as the minutia of the characters and their repetitive flashback sequences takes their toll. The best way to tell a story of this magnitude would be a six or eight-part miniseries on Netflix or Amazon. It simply can’t successfully be crammed into a single or double showing at a theater. But I digress.
My brief allotment of praise will come from the casting of the adult Losers, each of whom is a spot-on match to the child counterpart they are portraying. The movie features recognizable names like James McAvoy, Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, and Saturday Night Live star Bill Hader.
McAvoy and Chastain are very good in their roles, though they suffer a bit in having to share the spotlight with a large ensemble cast. Bill Hader is also an excellent actor, but his humor is often overused (more on that later). The other Losers (Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, and James Ransone), range from mediocre to downright substandard also-rans.
One shining aspect of the 2017 movie was Bill Skarsgård as the iconic clown, Pennywise. Skarsgård reprises his role for the sequel and does a fantastic job in his very limited screen time. He brings a more sadistic and primal aspect to the character, one that not only feasts on children but lusts after scaring them.
The film’s issues come from director Andy Muschietti’s decision to insert bad (and I do mean BAD) CGI into nearly every scene.
One of the reasons classic horror films of the ‘70s and ‘80s had an impact on their audience was the impact of limited special effects and their resulting eerie nature. We remember Linda Blair’s head spinning in “The Exorcist” or Johnny Depp being devoured by his bed in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Even the tawdry canines Tim Curry sported as Pennywise (in the 1990 version of “It”), was the stuff of nightmares. Superimposing T-Rex fangs over Skarsgård’s mouth doesn’t add anything other than an element of distraction.
And bad CGI isn’t the only thing that clouds Pennywise. The movie is loaded with ridiculous sub-monsters that torment the Losers as they return to Derry, each of which is a hybrid of predictable and cheap jump scares with an incredibly poor, video game-like appearance. Add in loud sounds, music and a terrible host of inappropriate bathos (most courtesy of Bill Hader), and you have the result – a horror movie that isn’t scary at all.
The film follows the novel in certain areas and goes its own way in others. Many of these decisions seem to employ the bad aspects of the book and leave out the good. In “It”, we follow the story of The Losers, who are growing up in the ‘80s. The terror they face at the hands of Pennywise and neighborhood bullies are real, and we feel invested in their struggles.
The adult characters in “Part Two” are simply older and taller versions of their childhood selves; there’s no deep draw. And there’s something about watching a group of forty-somethings ‘go after’ a monster that isn’t interesting or enjoyable.
But my all-time complaint is the misuse of Pennywise. He’s the best villain; he scares kids and adults. Why does he always change his form to be something less visceral?
Here’s a crib sheet: Pennywise = Scary. CGI = Not Scary. It’s simple.
The reboot of the ‘It’ franchise leaves us with one of the biggest disappointments in movie history. Yes, it will make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office but it’s not memorable and has no rewatch value whatsoever. In the end, it’s a typical bad horror movie that will quickly be forgotten.