“Swear. If it isn’t dead, if it ever comes back, we’ll come back too.”
Guilt, fear, trauma, regret. These are the real horrors of IT: Chapter 2, the long-awaited conclusion to IT, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
This R-rated sequel is more horrific and violent than its predecessor which, besides a gruesome death at the beginning of the movie, never really lived up to its own R-rating. It seems like director Andy Muschietti was saving all the goriness and savagery until the final installment, and boy did he deliver.
The story begins twenty-seven years after the events of the first movie. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who stayed in the small town of Derry, calls the now-adult members of the Losers’ Club home.
At the end of the first film, the gang vowed to return if Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) ever returned. Now, they must make good on their promise.
The adult versions of the Losers’ Club, made up of Richie (Bill Hader), Bill (James McAvoy), Ben (Jay Ryan), and Bev (Jessica Chastain), capture the energy and humor of their younger counterparts while lending a much needed maturity to their individual characters.
Chapter 2 retreads familiar story beats as each Loser faces Pennywise once again, coming to grips with their respective pasts and the trauma that continues to inform their present.
Skarsgård’s iconic clown villain returns and, although quite terrifying, turns into a broken record by the end of the film. Enough with the jump scares! Give us more terrifying images, like when Beverly returns to her father’s home and is confronted by a deformed, naked lady twice her height. Or the dreadful hallucinations the group faces at the beginning of the movie (picture a baby’s head attached to a cockroach’s body). The movie relies too heavily on Pennywise’s lazy eye, which goes from creepy to hilarious in a matter of seconds.
What IT represents
In his book Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky writes, “In every man’s memory there are things he won’t reveal to others, except, perhaps, to friends. And there are things he won’t reveal even to friends, only, perhaps, to himself, and then, too, in secret. And finally, there are things he is afraid to reveal even to himself…”
Each character’s struggle to be honest with themselves and one another drives the story forward as they revisit familiar locations in Derry, uncovering forgotten memories along the way.
Their internal anguish bubbles to the surface: Bill faces his regret and guilt for leaving Georgie alone to play on the day of his death. Bev deals with the trauma of her sexually and physically abusive father, whose presence still haunts her (she marries an abusive man). Ben struggles with his feelings of loneliness and isolation. Eddie’s hypochondria follows him into adulthood where he must come to terms with his Oedipal love for his mother and the immobilizing fear he carries with him everywhere. Richie grapples with his sexuality and his love for Eddie.
In the second chapter of IT, dormant childhood trauma bursts forth into adulthood, wreaking havoc on the Losers’ Club literally, and emotionally.
This second iteration of Pennywise is a terrifying example of how, if you let something fester under the surface for too long, it will return, stronger than ever.