“People love your books,” a film director tells a grown-up Bill (James McAvoy). “But they hate your endings.”
It’s a sly wink at author Stephen King, whose 60-plus books have their fair share of terrible endings. With the 2017 first chapter, director Andy Muschietti filmed a terrifying adaptation and brilliant meditation on childhood trauma, but King’s clumsiness with endings aroused caution for this second chapter. Thankfully, as the Losers’ Club return to Derry 27 years after their last confrontation, Muschietti has crafted another brilliant film.
Muschietti’s first chapter had high expectations to meet, competing with the cheap-yet-era-defining 1990 miniseries. He cleared that obstacle, pumping the warm-hearted nostalgia with the darkness of Bill Skarsgard’s terrifying Pennywise. For ‘It: Chapter Two’, Muschietti seems to have recognised audience’s best reactions were to the bizarre dancing sequences and the frightening garage scene, and has focused on creating more memorable scenes like those.
Creepy seniors, hatching fortune cookies, and a muscle-car driving corpse are just some of the images Muschietti has brought to life. While the CGI is glaringly obvious, Muschietti makes up for this by disrupting the established rhythms of horror films; the expected scare is brought forward or delayed, red flags are raised to distract from the real scare, or they’re replaced with a sight so bizarre it elicits laughter, as done with the greatest use of the song ‘Angel In The Morning’. It’s enough to disorientate audiences, making most scenes extra frightening.
Bizarre imagery isn’t the sole source of horror in ‘It: Chapter Two’. The traumatic events of the first film linger in the lives of the Losers’ Club, this time within the confines of reality. Homophobia and domestic violence rear their ugly heads in confronting scenes, showing the nightmares or the real world.
The child cast from the first film make welcome appearances, retaining their charm. Some of their adult counterparts, however, show little personality, resembling blank spaces to not distract from the scares. Escaping this criticism are Bill Hader’s Richie and James Ransone’s Eddie, whose charismatic performances are filled with wisecracks and physical comedy, while also showing the appropriate amount of horror for their situation.
As fans of the book and miniseries know, King’s source material has an undesirable ending. While his stories are incredible, it’s a shame the master of horror struggles to leave his expansive worlds. But with ‘It: Chapter Two’, audiences are given the horrors of King’s mind, a beautifully crafted story, and the perfect ending it finally deserves.