It: Chapter 2 (2019)
Director: Andy Muschietti
Performers: Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, and Bill Skarsgård
I’d be lying if I didn’t start this review stating upfront that I’m a huge Stephen King fan, that It was the first full-length King novel I ever read, and that I have a ton of personal affection and bias for this storyline. I don’t think my experience is unique in that way since most horror fans I’ve met have opinions about King and have read are familiar with a good chunk of his work. We know what we’re getting into when we go see a movie based on a Stephen King novel, and It really delivers. It has it all: nostalgia for childhood, horrific undercurrents beneath a small-town veneer, and supernatural horrors without clear explanations. I’m all for it, personally, but if you’re not then hey, power to you. The people who want to see this one will go. The ones who don’t just won’t.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
If you’re not familiar with the book, there may be some uncomfortable surprises in store, and I don’t just mean clowns. Thankfully, director Andy Muchietti trimmed the fat from King’s novel, but that just makes the violence more gruesome when it’s based in the real world. The film’s opening begins as it should, with the brutal homophobic assault on Adrian Mellon. This attack, despite some viewers saying it jarred them, was part of the basis for King’s novel in the first place: it was based almost beat-for-beat on the attack and murder of Charlie Howard in 1984 Bangor, Maine. The juxtaposition of the brutal real-world horror and the surreal appearance of Pennywise and a flood of balloons is especially creepy and effective.
The movie does a great job of building the horror from there, though you can tell that even at almost three hours, the film was cut significantly for time. Muschietti has already stated in interviews that there will be a super cut coming soon with all the cut material integrated into both films for a true extended edition. But the scenes we do have are clean and do a good job of keeping viewers on edge, between Beverly’s husband turning from caring to brutal in an instant, to the dreamlike blurring between the present and the past as the adults recall missing memories from their childhoods. It doesn’t feel like a long movie, and no one in my theater even went for a bathroom break. That’s how invested we all were.
It’s a cultural phenomenon. Go see it. And if you’re wondering, the spider scene is way better than the 90s movie. Don’t worry.