‘It Chapter Two’ bone chilling, yet bittersweet

By Chic DiCiccio

“We need to split up.” It’s the kiss of death in horror movies. This is particularly so in “It Chapter Two,” but for a different reason. It’s due to the fact that after one fantastic scene of the now adult and reunited Losers Club, you hate to see them apart. 

Bill Hader in “It Chapter Two.”
Photo courtesy of KatzSmith Productions

“It Chapter Two” is fully saved from its meandering storytelling (169 minutes of it; oof) by amazing cast chemistry and the overwhelming tension and dread created by director Andy Muschietti. The terror is so nonstop that, at times, it’s overwhelming and your brain needs a break. It also suffers from a finale that becomes borderline sci-fi when an explanation for it all feels somewhat unnecessary. 

Where “Chapter Two” doesn’t falter is in its themes. Closeted sexuality, bullying, bigotry and past regrets are only a few of the driving forces for the story. In fact, a horrific hate crime is the main reason that brings the Losers Club back to Derry after 27 years. 

In that time frame, all of the Losers have left Derry, all except Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who becomes the town librarian and default “It” historian. After a body is found horribly mutilated, Mike contacts the Losers so they can honor their 27-year old oath to fight It/Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). 

The rest of the gang has moved on with their lives, but they all have easily identifiable adult issues that mirror their childhood trauma. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) and Eddie (James Ransone, almost stealing the movie) are in marriages that eerily match how they each were treated by their parents. 

Ben (Jay Ryan) is a mega-rich architect who seems to live in seclusion and Bill’s (James McAvoy) successful novelist career is constantly derailed by his inability to end his books (Stephen King’s clever self-critique). 

Naturally, the two members who seem to be squared away are the most derailed. Stanley (Andy Bean) appears to have a normal life that is torn to shreds the second he gets Mike’s phone call. 

Richie (Bill Hader) has become a popular stand-up comedian, but his inner demons become the most painful and sympathetic of the entire bunch.

Muschietti and Gary Dauberman’s script do a great job of mixing in flashes of the past with the present as each character gets a lengthy, if not too in-depth study. The scares are always worse with the kid versions since they are, you know, kids. 

Of course, the scares are mostly compliments of Bill Skarsgard. He seems to be able to contort his face into the freakiest of positions, and that terrifying voice is bone chilling. One scene in which he is simply applying clown makeup is 100 percent nightmare fuel. Chastain and McAvoy are Oscars waiting to happen, but they don’t dominate this perfect cast. Much has and will be said about Hader’s performance, and it’s not hyperbole. He scores the biggest laughs of the movie, but Hader also excels dramatically. It’s a juicy role and seems tailor made for Hader’s surprisingly large skill set. 

“It Chapter Two” is a mixed bag. Skarsgard’s Pennywise isn’t as frightening this time around since the initial shock is gone. The nostalgia factor is high, which makes “Chapter Two” a bittersweet experience for adults, but there are entire sequences (particularly the one involving adult Henry Bowers) that could have been removed to trim the fat. 

However, unlike Bill’s books, “It Chapter Two” sticks the landing. 

It takes a while to get there, but in the end, it’s entirely worth it … minus about 30 minutes.