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”. With this in mind did Andy Muschietti achieve the end result we had hoped for?
There was an inherent risk sitting at the heart of IT. One that splits a combined story interweaving adult and childhood experience, into two separate entities. Hence dividing the narrative of Stephen King’s source material. While also creating an expectation that the audience could combine both chapters into singular cinematic 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 which delves into the adult world King created. While also offering a continuation of the coming of age themes present in chapter one. With both cinematic chapters seamlessly joining into one continuing story.
IT Chapter Two is far more than a mainstream horror, it is a journey into the childhood traumas that make the adult. Both exploring and uncovering the childhood fears and choices that we try to forget. While also delving into the experiences that subconsciously gnaw away at our adult selves. Providing us with a beautifully structured homage to the writing of Stephen King. And to that end, one that never attempts to replace the power of literature with mindless screen horror.
Action picks up 27 years after the events of Chapter One, the losers club having each developed their own adult lives away from Derry. The fears and experiences of their childhood locked away in the secret mental rooms we develop in adulthood.
Richie (Bill Hader) is now 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. While Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a women who has replaced the childhood abuse of her past with the domestic abuse of her present. Meanwhile, 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 the memories of his youth.
However, unknown to the other adult losers, the torch of their teenage pact is still burning through Mike (Isaiah Mustafa). Who stayed in Derry, reliving his childhood memories over and over again. While desperately seeking to unpick the secrets of ‘IT’. His quest leading him to search for answers, while standing on guard; the simple blood pact of youth ever present in his mind.
As events in Derry begin to descend into darkness. Mike is convinced they foretell the return of ‘IT’. And with this in mind makes contact with losers club of his childhood. His call bringing back the distant memory of the childhood promises made. Their return to Derry, a return to the experiences that made the adult version of the child they once were. Each person consequently forced into facing the buried memories they locked away on the journey into adulthood. While the delightfully sinister Pennywise/IT (Bill Skarsgård) plays with each adults buried fears. At the same time knowing that the inner child cannot be suppressed forever, even by the deepest mental vaults of adulthood.
From the outset Muschietti and script writer Gary Dauberman demonstrate their love and understanding of King’s source material. While ensuring that the wider themes of adult indifference and darkness in a town of secrets have room to develop. Therefore ensuring that scenes central to the book have space to grow. Including the controversial and heartbreaking scene of a homophobic attack in Derry. Alongside the inherent adult abuse and bullying of a town where people turn a blind eye to suffering. Thus playing to the themes of adult action being equal in horror to the IT lurking beneath the surface.
Meanwhile the choice of our adult losers in forgetting the past and the hurt they once held, only deepens the darkness. Each member of the loser club forced to replay the painful and unresolved childhood experiences buried on the transition from teenager to adult.
Much of the success of IT Chapter Two comes through smart and informed casting choices. In order to ensure that the adult losers club echo the youthful performances of the first film. While beautifully structured flashbacks build on the coming of age story inherent in chapter one. With the amazing young cast of the first film reprising their roles in making chapter two work.
However, despite it largely providing us with a film of highest standard. IT Chapter Two does have several key flaws, however, these are also flaws in the source material. An illustration of which is the continuing story of Henry Bowers. A story that feels underdeveloped in the adult world. While the mixture of science fiction and horror in the finale may leave some confused. However, despite these flaws Muschietti creates a stunning film that honours its author.
IT Chapter One and Two are designed to be seen as a singular cinematic journey. The novels coming of age themes interfacing with the horror of compartmentalised adult memory. With Muschietti honouring a literary genius, while also creating one of the finest horror journeys of the past decade. Coupled with a deep understanding of the true horror of life. One that ultimately lays as much within ourselves as it does within the monster in the deepest darkest sewers.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Xavier Dolan