IT: Chapter Two [Review]

It is finally here.
Or rather, It is finally here. Whichever is right, let’s go with that.

TIFF is starting in Toronto, and I always have the tradition of seeing a film in theatres before the festival starts as a reminder of the different experiences in a theatre. A few years back, that mistake was watching Sausage Party. But last year’s film was Searching, and the year before was It: Chapter One. So it made sense to continue my tradition and close off this epic because that’s what these two films make. A horror epic. Arguably our first real horror epic.

It is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, where the town of Derry has to deal with Bob Gray or Pennywise, or as the kids simply call it, It. A shape-shifting creature who feeds on kids, and fear. It sleeps for roughly 27 years before it reawakens to get their hands on anyone they can. And 27 years have passed since Chapter One and we are reunited with the Losers’ club, the outcasts who beat him once who have to return to their hometown to try and beat Pennywise once more.

Every member of the losers’ club has left, except Mike. And all of them have forgotten about Pennywise, and just about each other, and again, except for Mike who has been studying and waiting. The film opens with an attack at Adrian Mellon (played by Xavier Dolan) and it’s clear from this sequence, we are really diving into the R rating. The film doubles down on itself and it’s clear that it knows that we want more – so when Adrian is being beaten by the bigots at a carnival, it makes us wonder if more is what we want – and with a 2 hour and 45 minute runtime, it definitely makes us question if we want more.

And the answer for some of us is yes. It is not perfect, and it is a bit clogged. But the pace other than one sequence is wonderful. And does not feel like the nearly 3 hours run time.

It’s remarkable to see Chapter Two unfold. It slowly unravels and opens itself. It acts as a reminder that you should rewatched the first chapter recently, but also is prepared to remind you what you’ve forgotten. The two together is a horror epic, and it feels like a testament to the horror renaissance (as some call it) of the past decade. Every Conjuring film, every “elevated horror” (I personally hate the term) flick has led to the climax of this film. And more so, the scale and the budget rallied behind it. It’s arguably funnier, sometimes scarier and has more emotion. You have lived, and grown with some of these characters, and I love them.

The cast does a remarkable job at finding a way to see where the Losers’ end up, just to end up acting like their old selves. Whether that be Richie (Bill Hader) throwing up, or Bill (James McAvoy) stuttering again. Or even the wonderful James Ransone who becomes Eddie, and if you’re not sure, there’s a moment that Eddie gets where you get to see the similarities clearly.

If it wasn’t clear from the first film, Andres Muschietti has a love for The Thing (hard not to, I know) and his influences are strong but also he feels just as strong as being able to influence and scare other upcoming filmmakers or just audiences. The performances he gets out of the cast is superb.

When the casting was announced and Jessica Chastain was confirmed, and McAvoy was confirmed, I was afraid they would have the limelight of the film and I was glad to be wrong. Yes, it shines on them from time to time, but only when it’s right. As I already said, the pace and flow as we glide across to our next character and their struggle or interaction with Pennywise, or each other. I already praised Ransone, but it’s hard for me to believe there isn’t anyone who thinks that Bill Hader is the stand-out.

Maybe it’s partially due to my obsession with him for one of my favourite shows this year (Barry) but he is perfection. He’s beautiful and real. And pure. There’s an essence that he carries with this idea of a secret hidden behind his glasses and his eyes, and you can believe it and his relationship with the rest of the Losers’. It comes as no surprise that a movie about teenagers and the juxtaposition with their adult selves returning to each other doesn’t remind me of Stand By Me, and maybe that’s intentional.

The film does what the book does, and personally, I think does it well. It’s about the baggage and the trauma that we carry, the way we fear the world as children. But sometimes, we shouldn’t remember just the bad things, we want to remember the good, we want to be able to remember the magic that we believed in as kids.

Now, bring me the cut together director’s cut that apparently runs over 6 hours. I’m ready,