I actually got out to see It : Chapter Two on opening weekend (Big thanks to Joe Ostrica and Retro Invasion Weekend for hooking me up with tickets!). I’m not going to review it – there’s plenty of reviews out there already by people more qualified than me, but I do have some thoughts. (With only the mildest of spoilers regarding theme)
My buddy Steph spotted me as I was headed into the Atlas Midway theater. and greeted me with “There’s a surprise in there for you!” I looked at her quizzically then proceeded to the box office. I spotted Jen getting popcorn and headed to say hello. As I passed the doors a demonic clown emerged from a darkened corner to haunt me. My wife laughed and asked which of my crew this guy was. I shook my head and pointed out that all of my friends were accounted for. This dude wasn’t one of us!I love that Atlas Midway does this sort of thing, and it made my night before I even got into the movie.
I actually saw the first chapter twice (after the movie, I lamented to my friend Chris that I really should have done a rewatch before chapter two), and I found it terrifying both time. Repeated viewings didn’t lessen the impact that Bill Skarsguard’s Pennywise had on me. I still jumped at all the right times and it was a rare almost perfect horror film.
Chapter two is good. It really is, but it’s not quite as good as the first one and I’m not sure why. Pennywise is just as brutal a predator, but somehow I find him a touch less spooky this time around. Stephen King once tried to define the types of horror –
“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”
It Chapter two gives us plenty of the first two, but in a lot of ways I feel like the third is missing.
I try very hard not to compare these movies to the 1990 TV version starring Tim Curry. This isn’t a remake (any more than Christopher Lee’s Dracula is a remake of Bela Lugosi’s) However, comparison seems invited when the movie redoes some it’s set pieces. The reunion in the Chinese restaurant (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s in the trailer) works better for me in the TV movie because everything is practical. Chapter two fills the scene with CGI, and it feels less…real. Indeed, in a lot of ways, I feel like the characters are underdeveloped. Despite the longer run time in these films, the 1990 version seemed to explore the characters deeper. This may be more about a reliance on writing and storytelling rather than glitz and FX. That certainly feels like what the Chinese restaurant scene falls victim to. The same can be said for Beverly Marsh’s trip back to her old home and tea with the old lady. This scene at least, has the rationale of bringing the stylistic horror into it’s own patter and retelling the scene in such a way that it fits Chapter two’s aesthetic.
That’s really at the heart of this film. It’s at it’s best when it does it’s own thing and shies away from what we’ve seen before. There’s elements added (such as a deadline – this is the last chance the Losers will have to destroy Pennywise) and the ending has been changed up from what we’ve seen before. With all the alterations, you can’t be sure who will live and who will die. It still maintains the structure and heart of the characters, but rewrites the details to create something unique. It’s effective too. Clocking in at just under three hours, the film flies by. It doesn’t just justify the run time, it transcends it. The entire approach takes familiar material and makes it unpredictable – ultimately a satisfying approach.
With the film being as big a success as it has been, Entertainment Weekly is already floating the idea of a third film in it’s recent interview with Bill Skarsgard. He’s up for a prequel and honestly, it may be the one and only time I’d be on board myself. I’d personally like to see the first time IT took on the identity and persona of Pennywise, and explore some of that history Mike Hanlon recounts as the losers folklorist. Anything other than that though, I’d prefer they leave well enough alone. This run has been mre than satisfactory for me and my friends!