DEVIN MEENAN, ARTS & LIFE EDITOR — Andy Muschietti’s cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s horror tome IT has, after a two-year interim, finally received a conclusion: IT Chapter 2 opened in theaters this past weekend. If you were a fan of the first film, does it provide a satisfying ending? In my eyes, it does, even though it’s unquestionably inferior to its predecessor.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first: structurally the film isn’t quite sound. The reintroduction to the Loser’s Club, aged by 27 years in a lapse forward since the end of the first film, is both tedious and abrupt, taking the time to count them off one-by-one while only giving a faint sense of their adult lives (thankfully, the theme “their adulthoods are informed by their childhood traumas” bleeds through, if only by sheer repetition). From there, the film then once again splits up the cast into side-quests before they rejoin for the final confrontation with Pennywise.
The first film hinged on the likeability of and chemistry between the young actors portraying the Loser’s Club; here the bets are once again placed on the lead characters, and the cast of the adults deliver. All of them, particularly Bill Hader as Richie (Finn Wolfhard in the previous entry) and James Ransone as Eddie (formerly Jack Dylan Glazer), inhabit the characters in the same manner as their teenage counterparts, with physical resemblances being the cherry-on-top of this continuity. Finally, it should go without saying that Bill Skarsgård is just as effective in the titular role as the last go-around.
On that note, I found the actual horror sequences more effective than the ones in the first film. While their execution can be excused as being from a child’s point-of-view, the execution of them was simplistic and bordered on formulaic (IT appears in its chosen guise, the kid reacts in horror and runs away, rinse and repeat). Here, the scares become more surreal, with the mood of the third act being downright eldritch.
Now, it may seem like I’m coming back to the first film quite a bit, but this is only because the two films do truly make up one, singular story. Chapter 2 even includes more than a handful of flashbacks to the cast’s shared childhoods, likely made of heretofore unseen deleted footage from Chapter 1, in order to craft more satisfying payoffs for this installment. Perhaps this is the film’s make-or-break factor; the first, though of course made with a follow-up planned, could be enjoyed as a standalone. The same cannot be said for the second. Muschietti has discussed possibly creating an extended cut that combines the films in a style likely to be reminiscent of the original novel. Given that Chapter 2 proves the IT duology is best-enjoyed as a single work, I’d be more than curious to watch such a cut.
All-in-all, Chapter 2 swings higher than the first, which was content to be more a thrill-ride, haunted house horror infused with a healthy twinge of nostalgia. If you liked the first, I can’t guarantee you’ll like this one, but finding out is a worthy investment of your time.