Our recent retrospective of ‘IT Chapter One‘ ended with the following thoughts on the upcoming chapter two “With IT Chapter Two coming to cinemas in few weeks time, Muschietti may achieve something truly unique in cinema. A two part horror film that honours its literary roots, while providing a modern classic of the genre”. So did Andy Muschietti achieve the end result we had hoped for?
Splitting a combined story where adult experiences mixed with childhood flashbacks, into two separate entities, was always going to be a risk for director Andy Muschietti. The narrative of Stephen King’s book divided in two, alongside the expectation that audiences would see both films as singular journey. This is a challenge that few films have managed to deliver unless planned as trilogies based on several novels; allowing for a structured opening, middle and finale chapter. However, with IT Chapter Two Muschietti has indeed managed to deliver something unique and special. Creating a concluding chapter in a horror film journey that delves into the adult world King created. Both chapters seamlessly joining into one continuing story.
IT Chapter Two is far more than a mainstream horror, it is a visceral journey into the childhood traumas that make the adult. Exploring and uncovering the childhood fears and choices that we try to forget. The choices and experiences that subconsciously gnaw away at our character, opportunity and relationships in later life. This is a homage to Kings writing and character building, that never attempts to play to mindless screen horror over its core literary messages.
Picking up 27 years after the events of Chapter One, the losers club have each developed their own adult lives. The fears and experiences of their childhood locked away in the secret mental rooms we develop in adulthood. Richie (Bill Hader) is a professional comic, still running from fear and self reflection through humour; Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk assessor, still obsessed with the fear of dying; Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a women who has replaced the childhood abuse of her past with the domestic abuse of her present; Ben (Jay Ryan) is a man who has spent his adult life erasing the ghosts of the overweight boy of his youth; Bill (James McAvoy) is a horror writer who hates the concept of endings and Stanley (Andy Bean) has chosen to lock away his youth until the day IT returns.
Unknown to the other adult Losers, the torch of their teenage pact is still burning through Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) a man who stayed in Derry, reliving his childhood memories over and over again. Desperately seeking to unpick an adult interpretation of ‘why’ IT happened. Searching for answers, while also standing on guard; the simple blood pact of youth ever present in his mind.
As events in Derry begin to foretell the return of IT, Mike makes a call to each member of the Losers Club. The distant memories of childhood promises returning to haunt the adults of the present. Their return to Derry, a return to the experiences that made the adult version of the child they once were. Each one forced into facing the buried memories they locked away on the journey into adulthood. The delightfully sinister Pennywise/IT (Bill Skarsgård) playing with each adults true fears. Knowing that the inner child cannot be suppressed forever, even by the deepest mental vaults.
From the outset Muschietti and script writer Gary Dauberman understand the core messages of Kings book. Ensuring that the wider themes of adult indifference and darkness in a town of secrets have room to develop. The books scenes of a homophobic attack, adult abuse and bullying playing to the themes of adult action being equal in horror to the IT under the surface.
The choice of adults in turning a blind eye and forgetting the past and the hurt they once held, only deepens the darkness. Painful and unresolved childhood experiences, leading the subconscious to replay the very memories buried on the transition from teenager to adult. While the deepest childhood friendships and bonds are sidelined by the need to grow up and escape the places that forged the individual.
Much of the success of IT Chapter Two comes through its casting, the adult Losers Club echoing the youth of the first film. Each adult believable as the grown up version of the young teenager they represent. While flashbacks build on the story of IT Chapter One. Taking us back to the young cast and the experiences that remained hidden in the minds of each young person as the summer of IT Chapter One unfolded. The amazing young cast of chapter one (Jaeden Martell) (Wyatt Oleff) (Jack Dylan Grazer) (Finn Wolfhard) (Sophia Lillis) (Chosen Jacobs) (Jeremy Ray Taylor) all returning and building on the characters they so eloquently created in first film.
IT Chapter Two isn’t perfect in every sense. Henry Bowers story feels slightly underdeveloped in the adult world, and some may find the ending to convoluted. However, Stephen King is a master of asking the reader to dig deeper into the real horror under the surface. Muschietti understands this, and ultimately the viewers final opinion may rest in how much of their inner child remains in their adult self.
IT Chapter One and Two are designed to be seen as one film, both chapters dovetailing into a singular journey. With Stephen King’s novel receiving a confident and beautifully structured big screen debut. The Coming of age themes inherent in the novel, interfacing with the horror of compartmentalised adult memory. Muschietti honouring a literary genius, while creating one of the finest horror journeys of the past decade. Understanding that true horror lies as much within ourselves as it does within the monster in the deepest darkest sewers.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård
Warner Brothers (New Line Cinema) 2019