It still lives.
It Chapter Two adapts the second half of the Stephen King novel of the same name delivering thrills, chills, and examination of the human condition.
Obviously before even viewing the trailer, this film seems as if it’s the continuation of It Chapter One. Six childhood friends reconvene as adults, having failed to vanquish a demonic clown that they fought in part one. That’s what this trailer seems to impart. Freaky imagery, scary shots and a whole lot of nope is what It Chapter Two will bring.
Presented below is the trailer for the film.
I covered the first chapter of It two years ago on 31 Days of Horror. You can find that brief article here.
The film opens with the final scene from It (2017), where the seven members of the “Losers Club” make an oath to return to Derry, Maine, if It ever comes back again. Twenty-seven years later a gay man is attacked by some thugs and thrown into the river. His boyfriend sees Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård) attack and eat him. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) begins calling each of the other six friends to let them know they need to come home. Stan Uris (Andy Bean) apparently cannot face returning and commits suicide.
The remaining club members, all adults now, meet at a Chinese restaurant. None of them remember much about their childhood, but the longer they stay in Derry the more their memories return. After witnessing some truly bizarre and horrific events at the restaurant everyone wants to leave town, so Mike talks with Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) and shows him the Shokopiwah vision about how to stop the monster. He agrees to convince the others to stay.
In order to complete the “Ritual of Chud” the six members must all find some token of their lives in Derry. Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain) visits her old apartment finding a strange old lady that is a manifestation of Pennywise. Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) visits the movie theater and runs from a giant Paul Bunyan statue that comes to life. Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) finds old demons, figuratively and literally at the high school. Hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransome) discovers a nightmarish vision of his mother and a homeless man in the pharmacy basement.
Bill sees the young boy that lives in his old house, and he reminds him of his brother Georgie (who was taken by Pennywise at the beginning of It). He follows the boy to the funhouse at the local fair fearing that Pennywise was going to take him. Bill’s premonition is true as the boy is killed in front of him. He vows to kill the clown by himself. The other Losers show up at the entrance to It’s lair, the old house on Neibolt Street, and pledge to go in with him.
The six friends descend into the sewers and even deeper as they find the hideout of the monster. On their way they encounter many frightening visions designed to stoke their fears and make Pennywise stronger, and them easier to kill. They begin the Ritual, drawing the “dead lights” from the beast, into the Native American artifact, But it does not go as planned and Pennywise escapes, now shaped like a giant spider-clown. He separates the friends forcing them to each face their own fears.
Eddie, who has been the most fear-stricken of the group is finally driven to stab the arachno-clown when Richie is grabbed by the “dead lights.” Unfortunately Eddie is stabbed by It’s point claw, but his sacrifice was enough to give the rest a moment to regroup. They literally belittle It into a form that they can defeat, pulling It’s heart out and crushing it. They escape the lair before the house is sucked into nothingness. Beverly finally realizes the poem she received as a teen was written by Ben and not Bill. Finally, the friends all go their separate ways, better for the experience. The film ends with a posthumous letter from Stan explaining why he killed himself, and praising the others for being Losers.
“Memory, it’s a funny thing. People want to believe they are what they choose to remember; the good stuff, the moments, the places – the people we all hold on to. But sometimes…sometimes, we are what we wish we could forget.” – Bill Denbrough
There is literally no way that I can summarize or do justice to It Chapter Two in this article. It’s an almost three-hour movie that is the sequel to a two-and-a-half hour movie, based on a book by Stephen King weighing in at over 1,100 pages. But what I can do is talk a little about the themes present in this adaptation. This one film, which the second half of a two part story is only 10 minutes shorter than the original 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s It, which was a 2-part television miniseries broadcast on ABC. Thirty years later the special effects and being an R-rated film, rather than a primetime show, allow for this film to more closely envision King’s original story.
I will not be comparing the film to the novel. For one reason, it’s been over 25 years since I read that book, but also it’s not fair to judge the film by the book, or vice versa. The common complaint of the original adaptation was that, while it set up interesting characters and a creepy villain, the ending was horribly abrupt and unsatisfying. Here, the character of Bill is a novelist and screenwriter in his adult life, and often critiqued that his books are great except that the endings suck. Both a reference to the original film, and also to King’s own endings. While much of King’s works are amazing character pieces, the plots sometimes do not hold up when put to film. So in separating the book from the movie, I’ll just be looking at the film on its own.
The first question that anyone should ask about a Stephen King film is, is it scary? Here, the answer is yes. Both It and It Chapter Two have some horrible, nightmare inducing moments. Scared of spiders? It’s got them. How about demonic clowns? Yup. Any other insecurities that you can think of, they’re all here. All the self-denying fears that people only admit to themselves. This film is full of them. So, heck yes it’s scary and disturbing. It’s got its share of jump scares as well, just in case anyone gets too comfortable.
But that’s just the genre coating to get the rubes inside. Once in the seats, It Chapter Two deals with meaty themes like friendship and commitment. These characters have all been friends since high school or before. They would, and in some cases do, go to the ends of the Earth for the others. The friendship takes many forms too. There’s the puppy love aspect between Ben and Beverly. Or the antagonistic friendship between Richie, Stan, and Eddie who are always calling each other names, and disrespecting the others Moms. They give each other a hard time, but deep down, they really love each other. And while the majority of this film covers the adult lives of these characters, there are plenty of flashback moments of them as kids as well.
As with the 1990 miniseries, the first half (in this case the 2017 film) which focuses solely on the kids is still probably the stronger aspect of the story. It’s hard to talk just about this one particular film, since there’s so much story wrapped up in both parts, that anyone who only watches Chapter Two may not really understand what’s going on. At some point I would like to find 5 hours to be able to sit down and watch both parts of the story at one sitting. It would enhance both episodes and the story overall.
- As with many King related works, there are a lot of references to his other works within. In one of Beverly’s nightmare sequences, a character pokes his head through a partially open door and says, “Here’s Johnny,” referencing the moment from The Shining. The flashlights the group take into the sewers give off a greenish hue, which may be a reference to the green glow of The Tommyknockers.
- There’s also a great reference to John Carpenter’s The Thing. When the characters enter the Neibolt house, they find a representation of young Stan’s head, which grows spider-like legs and runs after them. “You’ve got to be f**in kidding me,” says Richie, aping Kurt Russel’s line from the film.
- Some of the cast has been in other scary films and TV series including:
- Jessica Chastain in Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak.
- Finn Wolfhard (young Richie) is a main cast member of Stranger Things.
- James McAvoy stars in the horror-adjacent Split.
- Both Bill Skarsgård and Chosen Jacobs (young Mike) appeared in the Hulu original series Castle Rock.
- Sophia Lillis (young Beverly) was in the recent film Gretel and Hansel.
Having grown up on comics, television and film, “Jovial” Jay feels destined to host podcasts and write blogs related to the union of these nerdy pursuits. Among his other pursuits he administrates and edits stories at the two largest Star Wars fan sites on the ‘net (Rebelscum.com, TheForce.net), and co-hosts the Jedi Journals podcast over at the ForceCast network.