REVIEW: IT CHAPTER TWO serves up a fitting capstone for the IT saga, while shedding a light on the true horrors of the modern world.


Andy Muschietti’s follow up to 2017’s It brings the Loser’s Club and Pennywise The Dancing Clown 27 years forward into the modern-day while also showcasing that some of the darkest things to fear in the modern world aren’t of the supernatural variety.

One of the most harrowing moments in Andy Muchietti’s IT CHAPTER TWO occurs in the first several minutes in the film. A gay couple attends a Derry Days Carnival 27 years after the events of the first film. The two share their hopes of starting a new life in New York, far away from the judgment and the stares of Derry, Maine, only to be confronted by a gang of street kids. As one group of the kids beats and kicks one of them, the other two begin punching his partner violently, with the insinuation and visual showing us they’ve beaten him half to death and then they throw him over a bridge before stealing his Derry hat. His partner runs down to the lake to find him only to see a weakened Pennywise emerge from the sewer emerge and grab him first, only to take a big bite out of his torso. In that one moment, Pennywise never seems less terrifying in the wake of what led to that potential victim coming into his path.

It’s in moments like these where IT CHAPTER TWO really is a terrifying horror film. Those kids never show up again in the film, they get no comeuppance. They cause a tragedy based on their own fears and lack of power and that awakens the bottomfeeder that is Pennywise to feast on the leftovers. In many ways, that defines the type of character that Pennywise (Bill Skaarsgard) is in this adaptation, a creature bound to the form he occupies; one that projects fear and power to the weakest of targets to feed on their fear like a parasite. 27 years earlier, a group of losers almost defeated him and swore an oath to come back and defeat him. Upon seeing the remains of the young man Adrian, Mike Hanlon (Isiah Mustafa) calls back the original losers to return to Derry to fulfill their promise to finally end Pennywise. The remaining losers, all grown up, have moved on in their lives and forgotten the events of their youth but are nonetheless scarred from it and leery of coming back to Derry. Bill (James McAvoy) writes harrowing horror novels inspired by his experiences with It with weak endings because his own life lacks a true purpose behind it. Eddie (James Ransone) has grown up into the submissive hypochondriac his mother willed him into being as he marries a busybodied shrew that may as well be her exact clone (played by Molly Atkinson, the same actress who plays his character’s mother in one of the film’s creepiest casting decisions). Similarly, Beverly (Jessica Chastain) marries a domineering and abusive husband who controls her with fear and abuse just like her father did. Ben (Jay Ryan) has grown out of his baby fat but leads a lonely life pining for a deeper connection he has felt missing in his life. Richie (Bill Hader) also leads a lonely existence; he’s become a successful comedian but at the expense of a solitary life that he keeps locked up behind a closet. Similarly, Stanley (Andy Bean) also leads something of a sheltered life with his wife and is shaken to the core upon hearing from Mike.

The bulk of the Loser’s Club reluctantly joins up back in Derry with Mike at a Chinese restaurant where their memories of their youth start to come back and it is a joyful catching-up until they start to remember Pennywise and the influence he has on them and the town takes hold in a terrifying scene. Mike has a plan to defeat him, an ancient Indian rite called the Ritual of Chud – one that will only work if each of the members of the Club finds a token from their forgotten past so that they can come together and hopefully defeat Pennywise once and for all.

From here, IT CHAPTER TWO largely becomes a series of shorts with each of the adults coming to terms with the ghosts of their past as Pennywise tries to influence them to leave town and scare them away. He largely becomes a Freddy Krueger-ish type of character in these scenarios; assuming different shapes and manipulating reality to try to ward each of them off. Some of these are very intricate and beautiful in their execution (a technicolor tinged confrontation with Richie being the most memorable). However, one of the issues with the film starts to be one of technology not being where it needs to be to deliver some of the ideas the filmmakers want to convey. The uncanny valley is still an issue with CGI-created humanoid characters and IT CHAPTER TWO employs a lot of this and a lot of it just looks cartoony rather than frightening. Similarly, a lot of scenes are shot with the cast of the original film and digital de-aging is used to try to make them look like tweens when many of them are in their mid to late teens now. Frankly, the results are mixed and unfortunately, more than a bit obvious and these scenes take you out of the film whenever they come up. Similarly, while McAvoy, Bean, Hader, and Ransone perfectly embody the adult versions of the Loser’s Club characters they play, Ben and Beverly’s adult versions don’t really ring as true. Jay Ryan does a solid job as Ben, but you never really believe he’s the grown-up version of New Kid. Similarly, while Jessica Chastain is a great actress, she comes off as remarkably wooden throughout, which is likely a character choice, but it doesn’t really hit. The film is paced well despite its long running time of almost three hours; that being said, there are a few issues that are silly given that running time, such as a recurring character that has more screen time than some of the Losers never being given a name and just referred to as “kid.” This might be a deliberate choice, but it doesn’t come off that way.

That all being said, Muschietti tells a great story here and really mines the subtext of the novel and film to create a really compelling character arc for Hader’s Richie that really pays off in spades. Similarly, Eddie and Stan become unexpected heroes with their actions in this film and it really rings true. For fans of the original film and novel, there are a few really great cameos that are really well-executed. But its the little moments in between, where we see that despite Pennywise being the titular monster, we see side horrors of abuse and domestic violence that really show us that the world is a scary place alone even without a supernatural monster. Having friends who will have your back is the most you can ask for in life, especially in a world where pain can be around any corner and the biggest monsters one can deal with are often the consequences of regret and not acting on the moment when it is there. IT CHAPTER TWO captures the importance of friendship and how those bonds can affect your life for the better. Skaarsgard really gets to play with his portrayal of Pennywise and we see something of an origin for his clown persona that belies a tragic past and that bit of pathos really carries through to the end of the film.

Overall, IT CHAPTER TWO is a fitting conclusion to the IT saga, with closure given to these characters we grew to love in the first film and a truly epic conclusion tinged with the flavor of eldritch horror that any Lovecraft fan would be excited to see. It has technical flaws and limitations, but the good outweighs the bad. The film wears the influence of 80’s horror on its sleeve from The Thing to Stand by Me to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie and The Beyond and is a love letter to classic King at the same time.