‘It Chapter Two’ review: More shtick and schlock than lasting scares
It's an uphill battle for Andy Muschietti’s It Chapter Two to even match its predecessor.
It, which Muschietti shaped into an endearing and nostalgia-fueled fable of prepubescent outcasts battling bullies and demons, is that rare charmer that elegantly blended adventure, horror and budding romance in a coming-of-age tale that hits most of the right notes. Chapter Two is comparably a lot less focused and vastly more distracted effort, with Muschietti clearly having difficulties in cohering all of his film’s scary parts to tackle his daring take on trauma.
An unwanted reunion
It ends with the members of the Losers’ Club making a pact to return to the cursed town of Derry should Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the shape-shifting monster that preys on children, ever return. (WATCH: Pennywise is back in 'It Chapter Two' trailer)
Chapter Two is set several decades after with Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of the Losers’ Club who stayed in Derry, calling all of his former friends to return to Derry after a series of murders that he believes is attributable to Pennywise. Adulthood has changed the Losers, with almost all of them having hazy memories of their childhood heroism. Bill (James McAvoy), the stuttering boy whose brother is a victim of the villainous clown, is now a famous writer. Richie (Bill Hader), once bespectacled and abrasive, is a successful comic. Beverly (Jessica Chastain), the only girl in the group, is a battered wife. Ben (Jay Ryan), the fat kid who secretly adores Beverly, is no longer obese but still harbors the same feelings for his childhood crush.
What is clear from the get-go is that Chapter Two is a totally different animal.
It attempts to approach its horror not from the perspective of wide-eyed children forced into the margins by an oppressive society but from the purview of adults who are forced to forget the glaring sins of the past because the present is fine and dandy. The sequel’s wonderful opening, where a gay couple is mauled by a gang of bigots before being massacred by Pennywise, sets the discourse in motion, with horror in all its forms and sizes never really disappearing even with the comforts and safeties afforded by maturity and adulthood.
Stricken by incoherence
Sadly, Chapter Two is stricken by incoherence.
Muschietti struggles to unite horror and humor. He has difficulties in echoing his pertinent point, with his adult characters, who are supposedly in a mission to rid their home town of the monstrous Pennywise by facing their respective difficult pasts. They mostly fail to present themselves as traumatized individuals as opposed to how the characters as children are so efficient in depicting themselves as unlikely heroes, as outsiders in a community who are driven together by a camaraderie dealt by the necessity of companionship. What Chapter Two really lacks is a driver, that single character whose narrative and motivations become the core of what the film is trying to impart.
As a result, Chapter Two feels more like a staggered collection of fairly tense horror set-pieces.
Muschietti is still able to assemble terrific sequences, still making most of the now-iconic imagery of a demonic clown lurking in the shadows, waiting on its gullible prey like a lion patiently waiting to pounce. Muschietti is best in mounting those stretched-out scenes where the unlikely pauses and silences become the most tormenting horror element. However, when chaos rules, or when ludicrousness spills over, things become messier than necessary, with Muschietti surrendering to shtick and schlock. As a result, Chapter Two feels rather silly, which is a disservice to the palpable childhood pains and aches expounded by its predecessor.
While not really an awful film, Chapter Two is clearly a letdown. — Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.