IT Chapter 2: Review and Questions

I loved IT Chapter 1 when it came out in theaters. I saw it on opening weekend, and before the week was over, I was in the theater once more. When I was in Scotland for Halloween, I saw it a third time.

The film and the translation of the book to screen thrilled me. The kids were great at bringing those characters to life—which was a big concern. I’ve seen some terrible child actors, especially in horror. But each actor was impressive.

I loved that it was set in the 80s. It hit me hard in the nostalgia spot. That 80s feel throughout the film was awesome. I especially loved how the film felt like a coming-of-age film, similar to Stand By Me, but—ya know—with a murderous clown involved.

And there was a good combination of slow building horror and tension, along with the jump scares.

There’s too many things to name. I loved that film.

So when Chapter 2 came out, I was equally excited to see it.

Chapter 2: Overall

IT Chapter 2 follows the children from IT Chapter 1, but they are now all adults. Having forgotten their experiences with Pennywise the Dancing Clown, they are called back to their hometown to defeat the evil that they didn’t really vanquish as kids.

The themes in Stephen King’s IT are phenomenal. As an English major, who LOVES analyzing literature and themes, I was drawn into this tome of a tale. As a writer myself, I adored seeing all the pieces fit together. It is these big things that I was excited to see tackled on the big screen for IT: Chapter 2.

And yet I’m still processing this film.

I did enjoy it.

The acting was great. The actors felt true to the kids they were portraying—and those adults had big shoes to fill!

I loved—and still do love—Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise. He stole the show in Chapter 1 and still brought the energy to Chapter 2.

The story itself felt stronger in this version than it did in the mini-series produced years ago.

But as a follow-up to Chapter 1, Chapter 2 wasn’t what I was expecting.

I may start falling into spoiler territory. If you’ve not seen the film and don’t want spoilers, don’t read on.

And also please keep in mind that many of these may be stemming more from my English major background and my love of story-telling. I’m going to be talking about themes and tone a lot, in addition to the choices made by the film ITself.

Details

There’s nothing I love more than digging into the details of something—especially writing, television series, and films. This review is no different. I want to dig into some of the details that I felt were either strengths or weaknesses in IT: Chapter 2. I’ll also dip into things I felt could have been improved and what I would like to see in horror overall.

Adult Characters

As stated above, I really enjoyed all of the actors who were chosen to be the adult versions of the kids we knew from Chapter 1. They all looked the part, but they also felt real. Some might argue the chemistry didn’t match that of Chapter 1, but these were adults who’d grown apart and had forgotten their childhood; I could understand a loss of chemistry in that.

I felt the acting and actor choices were a strength in IT: Chapter 2.

But…

I admit I would’ve liked to see more building. These are characters who have had 27 years worth of growing and changing from the children we knew. That’s a lot of time—and a lot of time they’ve forgotten—and I want to get a better feel for who these kids are as adults.

Example: The Phone Calls

An opportunity to build these characters a little more was at the start with Mike’s phone calls. We see the biggest reactions from Richie and Eddie, one who vomits immediately after the call (while I was shoveling popcorn into my mouth) and the other who gets into a car accident. However, there’s not much of a reaction from Bill or Ben.

Further, the phone calls themselves felt basic and short, especially for the men. When Mike phoned Bev, he seemed to take time to talk to her and explain more. But for the men, there was very little in terms of talk.

This is especially evident in his call to Stan. If Mike knew what he was asking of each of these people—regardless if they remembered or not—I would imagine he would be more inclined to talk if they needed it. Mike doesn’t need explain everything, as the Losers need to remember on their own. But he should offer some support, as he did for Bev when he called her.

We don’t need—nor want—an hour of phone calls. We need things quick to get us back to Derry to start the show. But those opening scenes, with characters who lived through something horrifying, should set that scene of growing horror within me, the audience member. I want to feel scared that they don’t know what happened, but I still do.

What I Want to See

To me, what would’ve strengthened this is to see the growing horror erupt in different ways from each of them. Richie and Eddie were the strongest ones in seeing such a visceral reaction. We saw how a momentary horror hit them and affected them in real life.

What I want is more of the building dread. Prepare yourself: I will be talking about this more.

Mike knows; Mike remembers. He also knows what risk there is of calling each of these people. Any of them—or all of them—could’ve reacted as Stan did.

This is why I wanted to see more of that build-up in the phone call scenes. His conversation with Stan came across as very abrupt, whereas his talk with Bev right after was more open. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but I would’ve liked to see Mike making more of an effort in his talk with Stan. This would’ve been a good reminder of how much of an effect it had on Stan. It also would’ve been good to show the audience how his childhood encounter with Pennywise truly stayed with Stan moreso than the others. Give the audience a hint of what he saw when he was in Pennywise’s clutches, just as we hear Bev talk about what she’d seen when she was caught in the deadlights.

Stan’s own genuine fear—seeing the flashes and reminders that he gets from Mike’s call—would’ve been perfect grounding to set the audience with unease. To think about how something horrific from your childhood, that you blocked from memory, can creep up on you.

It’s this growth of terror and horror I want to see developed and amplified—the slow, steady build of it.

Let’s See More: The Restaurant Scene

There were instances of it in the restaurant scene. When each one of them comes to the slow realization that they all were scared—petrified—by Mike’s call, but none of them knew why.

I felt that, and I loved it. I like feeling the fear along with my characters.

And from that, there was a slow realization that if they reacted with fear, perhaps Stan did too. I personally didn’t feel that latter intensity, but you could see the recognition growing, and I liked that. I felt like that worked. And that’s what I wanted more of.

Genuine Horror

Along those lines of gradual, slow build dread, there were instances of genuine horror that I felt added to the film overall.

The opening scene was just as horrific and potent as it was in the book. It was more than terrifying, for the fact that the hatred feels very real in our society. There’s the added relevance in that this opening connects directly to another character’s development later in the film.

As difficult as that scene is to watch, I think it’s important to this theme of what scares us as adults. In Chapter 1, Pennywise can focus on silly fears that children have. In Chapter 2, there has to be a shift because what adults fear is different than what children fear. But there is also a theme of how our childhood fears carry over into adulthood.

Example: Bev and Ben Trapped

This is a scene I’ll be mentioning twice in this entry, as it hits two big points in this film for me. The first being this theme of adult and childhood fears colliding.

This scene occurs towards the end of the film when the adult Losers are battling Pennywise. Bev and Ben are separated and knocked into their own personal hells. We see Bev trapped in a bathroom stall—where we assume she was bullied in Chapter 1—and Ben in the clubhouse he built as a kid.

In Bev’s hell, she is harassed at the door by the likes of her father, the local pharmacist, and Henry Bowers, all of whom had their own part in Bev’s conflicts of growing up female. Further, her stall is filling with blood, a symbol of puberty and fears of adulthood that were a big theme in Chapter 1 for Bev.

Ben is trapped in their underground clubhouse, which is filling up quickly with sand from above. We realize that it is actually Pennywise who is filling up the the clubhouse, all the while taunting Ben and saying he would live his greatest fear: dying alone.

There is so much symbology to break down, I can’t even. It’s one of the reasons I love it.

But…

I’m bringing it right back to that feeling of slow dread. I didn’t feel it the way I needed to. These fears that Bev and Ben are experiencing are genuine and real. They are ones that most adults can relate to.

In Chapter 1, we see Bev having to manage menstrual issues without a female figure in her life ,and with adult men, including her father, leering at her. Speaking as a woman myself, we recognize the looks we get from men, especially as we start getting older. Most women can relate to this very real fear that teenage Bev carries, and that adult Bev hasn’t really gotten over. This is very relatable for most women.

Further, Ben’s own situation—and the fear that Pennywise calls out—is one many adults genuinely fear as well: dying alone. Being unloved. The idea that we might never be cared for in our lifetime. This isn’t a fear we often have as kids (well, hopefully), but it is one that most of us question in our lives as we get older.

Let’s See More

Both of these are very relatable fears that most adults can empathize with, but because there was such a rush to it, I barely had time to register my own feelings about them. The figures pounding on Bev’s door were almost unrecognizable if you didn’t remember the first film well. The only fear you could sense was drowning, which, while relatable, isn’t as potent as the whole of the situation.

Similarly, with Ben, the biggest fear becomes being buried alive, which again is a very real, human fear. But if the words from Pennywise hadn’t felt so rushed, it could’ve been coupled with the added dread of dying alone and unloved.

In doing this, I feel it could’ve strengthened the takeaway that viewers felt from the film. It would’ve left them with a different fear than Chapter 1, but that’s the point. We, the viewers, would’ve also had the experience of growing and carrying fears from childhood into adulthood—and, WOW, would that have been potent for a film to do.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

I can’t say enough about how Bill Skarsgard really stole the show as Pennywise, both in Chapters 1 and 2. He made the roll his own, rather than mimicking the great Tim Curry, and I applaud the effort it must’ve taken to get into the character.

But…

I really would’ve liked to see was Bill Skarsgard stretching his acting chops for Pennywise in Chapter 2 just a bit further. We can see a Pennywise that is evolving, luring in its prey not just with fear, but also with insecurities. We see this with the young girl at the baseball game.

I would’ve liked to see Pennywise looking for the adult Losers Club’s own fears in a way that didn’t feel like it totally mimicked an over-the-top clown, especially considering how long he’s waited for them and how much he’s hated them.

Just as I mentioned earlier: I want the dread (told you it would be a theme). I want to see the menacing—the slow build that we saw in that opening scene in Chapter 1 with Georgie.

Example: The Bev and Ben Trapped Scene Again

I’ve described this scene above, so I won’t do it again, but my issues stem from the rush, as mentioned above, and also a missed opportunity to see Pennywise’s true menace.

When Ben is trapped, facing his own demise, Pennywise’s reaction felt so over the top that I couldn’t find concern. Pennywise throws dirt into Ben’s grave, and is giddy over the idea of Ben dying alone and unloved. And I should feel that. But because of how rushed that scene is, and because of Pennywise’s antics, the severity of the situation felt lost.

Pennywise has hated these people for years. While in hibernation, he likely dreamt of killing them for what they did to him. He even tells Mike to call the group back at the start of the film. Pennywise should despise each of them and want to relish in their demises.

We should’ve seen that side of Pennywise. Yes, it’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but Pennywise is also an ancient being that thrives on fear, so it knows fear on all its levels. Let’s see Pennywise the otherworldly monster, capable of more chaos, destruction, and terror than we can imagine. I want to see Skarsgard become that Pennywise, so that we can see the genuine hatred that has been growing within for years as he dreamt about killing these kids.

If we could’ve seen that menacing evil truly lurking inside Pennywise in that moment, along with having the scene not feel so rushed, I genuinely believe it would’ve been terrifying.

My Issues

I’ve written A LOT. But I never stop when I’m on a roll. And, as I said, I have A LOT to say about this film. So let me hit on some of the issues I had with the film.

The Biggest Issue

My biggest issue with the film was ALL the humor.

Don’t get me wrong: I love humor, and I’m totally okay with it in my horror films.

But Chapter 2 felt so heavy on the humor that I didn’t feel like I was watching a horror film at all. Sadly, I don’t even remember feeling too spooked by most of what happened.

It felt like they decided to veer towards humor-fear, which is such a drastic change from the first film we saw. Riche was no longer the only comedic relief; Eddie took on a much more comical role.

Example: Eddie and the Flashbacks

Several flashback scenes were created for this film using the actors from Chapter 1. Most felt a forced to make this story work, but I understand that a Chapter 2 wasn’t guaranteed, so Chapter 1 was made without it in mind.

But some of the flashback scenes seem to change characters to make it fit with the tone they wanted for Chapter 2. I noticed this with Eddie. It felt like his flashback character changed from what we saw in the first film to justify this comedic tone. In the flashback where all the kids are in the clubhouse, Eddie finds a paddleball and starts slamming the paddleball into Stan’s face, all the while speaking incredibly quickly. That didn’t feel like it meshed with the Eddie we met in Chapter 1.

But we see in Chapter 2, Eddie is a much more comedic character. I believe this is why some of those flashbacks changed his character portrayal. The scene with adult Eddie fighting the leper, when the leper vomits on him and Angel of the Morning starts playing… I didn’t feel like I was watching a horror film. I thought I was watching Deadpool.

And I love those Deadpool films. But I wasn’t going to see Deadpool.

Example: Bill Can’t Write Endings

I swear I have no issues with jokes. If a horror film can write a joke and the actor can hit it well, I love it. And I love that this joke was put in place. It’s great that Stephen King was a good sport about it—the joke being that King’s often criticized for not being able to write a good ending.

But this joke happened too many times. It felt like every character that came into contact with Bill said something about the endings. After a while, it stopped being funny.

It took me out of the film so often, I couldn’t see what stakes they were up against. Again, I like comedy in my horror films, but I don’t want it to take away from the horror and the story.

Second Biggest Issue

I did not like the CGI in this film. And I’m not here to completely rip on CGI. Films have done it well, especially those that combine practical effects with CGI. And I also know it’s incredibly helpful for those involved in film-making. But in IT Chapter 2, it missed the mark.

Example: Most of the Big CGI Scenes

The scene with Bev and Mrs. Kersh felt so eerie when we saw it in the trailers. I was excited to see what chased her through her old house. But I was so disappointed. It was more cartoonish than scary.

I felt the same about Eddie’s leper. It had this long tongue like something out of Courage the Cowardly Dog—similar to the dog that changed shape on Eddie and Richie towards the end of the film. Even young Ben’s flashback, Bev with her head aflame. I understood the callback to the “Winter Fire/January Embers”, but it looked so silly.

Closing Remarks and My Desire for Horror

In terms of IT: Chapter 2 being a follow-up to IT: Chapter 1, I personally felt it missed the mark. It was so different from the first film, and even lacked a lot of the fear elements.

BUT the English major in me still enjoyed this film for how much it made me think in deeper levels about themes and tone. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 really have me thinking more about what I want to see in horror films going forward.

Let’s See More

I want to see more of these deep themes at play. Let’s see more than just surface level horror. Because horror, like most other genres, does have the ability to teach us and open our minds to different ways of thinking, but it goes underutilized for that.

Slow down the fears. Let the audience take it in. Their own experiences can fill in the gaps, but the film needs to lead them there. Have it creep in, but grip us tight. Let the audience soak in the fear, so it carries them beyond the theater.

And don’t be afraid to challenge us with deeper themes. Chapter 2 touched on a lot of deep fears, but I personally wanted it to go all-in on those. So don’t hold back on that. Challenge some of us horror fans; many of us are eager for it!

Or maybe I’m just wanting too much out of my entertainment and my horror films these days.

Worth a Watch

At the end of the day, I did enjoy the film, though it wasn’t what I expected. I will be eagerly awaiting a massive director’s cut of both films, especially because I would love to see what Chapter 2 looked like when it was the full 4 hours, as I’ve heard it originally was. Ultimately, there’s more I want to see. I don’t feel done with this IT series. So, yes, I’m also excited for the potential of another IT film solely about Pennywise. I would totally see that as well.

While I do have my conflicts with the film, my inner English major loved all the themes going on in here. I know I’ll watch it again at some point—maybe even after a rewatch of Chapter 1—so there’s always the potential that my opinion will change.