Is it weird to say that “It: Chapter Two” is almost as scary, but not quite as grabby as “It: Chapter One”?
The sequel to the 2017 horror smash faithfully follows Stephen King’s epic, 1,100-page, 1986 bestseller by skipping ahead 27 years and tracking its protagonist kids into their messy, angst-ridden adulthood.
Once called the Losers Club, these children of Derry, Maine, are having a reunion. Not by choice — by force. As children, they vowed only to come home if Pennywise, the twisted and murderous clown who wreaked havoc in Derry back in the day, returned for another killing spree. He did.
Bill Skarsgard is back as the terrifying clown, Pennywise. Just the sight of his cross-eyed, painted, drooling face still sends shivers down the viewer’s spine. Making false promises that always end with his jaw coming unhinged and a child getting eaten, Pennywise is one manifestation of the shape-shifting “It.” He is surely the most horrifying, able to plant seeds of unrest in the viewer’s subconscious, assuring many sleepless nights to come.
So what’s the problem? For starters, “It: Chapter Two” is a mind-numbing two hours and 50 minutes, a half-hour longer than “Chapter One,” It seems to prove that the adage that less is definitely more. The dragging pace diminishes the film’s ability to hold viewers in its grip. There are endless flashbacks to the characters as kids, as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman did not trust the audience to have seen the first film and decided to squeeze the highlights into this one just in case.
One of the redeeming qualities is the decision to include the hate crime that was wrongly eliminated in the 1990 miniseries production of “IT.” In fact, Muschietti begins “It 2” with the hate-based murder of Adrian Mellon, a gay man. Based on the real-life 1984 drowning of Charlie Howard, a gay man viciously attacked in Bangor, Maine, the sequence shows teens gay-bashing Adrian and then throwing him off a bridge into a canal. It’s then that Pennywise reappears, ready to finish the job. King was writing about the roots of evil in human behavior — sadly, a theme that has not grown less timely or relevant.
At its worst, “IT: Chapter 2” is a long film that fails to grasp audiences with repeatedly cheap jump scares, but at its best, “IT” deals with the horrors of everyday life and our mutual responsibility to end them, “It: Chapter Two” challenges us to see the worst in ourselves. Now, that is truly terrifying and worth a movie ticket.