Wait until you can stream it…
It: Chapter Two is released today. There are a lot of people who are excited about the release of this movie. Who knows why. Its predecessor does have its moments, but it is ultimately overrated. Andy Muschietti is back for the second instalment, so we are likely in for more of the same: a film reliant on character chemistry and ineffective at scaring. If you want an impressive horror movie, go watch Get Out or Hereditary.
The Losers’ Club is the biggest draw in this 2017 horror film. The young cast are as impressive and likeable as the cast of Stranger Things (in particular Lieberher, Lillis, and Wolfhard). You cannot help but relate to them, and the film’s greatest moments come from their attempts to safely manoeuvre through their teenage years, and various forms of abuse. It is refreshing to see so many child actors capable of carrying a movie without an adult lead (even Stranger Things has two adult leads). For older viewers, the backdrop of the 1980s summer, golden in hue, will also provide a lot of nostalgia. These characters are why the second part is still on the watchlist for this blog.
However, unlike Stranger Things, these kids are not up against a particularly frightening antagonist. Pennywise, the villainous child-murdering clown, looks nothing like the actor playing him, Bill Skarsgård. The only thing Skarsgård can really bring to the performance, due to how Pennywise looks being so heavily influenced by makeup and CGI, is his voice. His voice is not sinister nor scary. It is too faint and unimpressive. In his defence, the smile is creepy. He has found the perfect smile to unnerve even the bravest of viewers. The excessive use of CGI proves a hindrance, though. Pennywise is constantly morphing into uninspired and not particularly frightening monstrous shapes. The creepiest thing about him, the smile, is perpetually lost in a landfill of CGI nonsense. Nothing is left to the imagination. Sometimes what is implied is scarier and more subtle than anything that can be depicted visually. The scene where the younger brother is eaten at the start would have been more effective if done off screen. A few screams and bloody tears paired with a close up of someone looking on in pure horror can go along way- and it is cheaper too. This film allows for no such subtlety. If you want scary, unsettling visuals and gore, go see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark instead. Further, Pennywise’s run is ridiculous. No wonder Reddit made it a meme. Pennywise is not an effective antagonist.
This is not helped by the uneven tone of the film. Wolfhard’s Richie is constantly making jokes and starting banter with the other characters. Are they not supposed to be fearing for their lives? Maybe not. The fact only one child dies at the hands of this child-murdering clown (he had one job and he blew it) further undermines the supposedly eerie and terrifying tone of the film. The climactic showdown between the Losers’ Club and Pennywise is extremely uplifting and inspiring as the characters face their fears and excommunicate Pennywise from their neighbourhood, without any casualties, no less. In isolation and without context, this scene is great and evokes a sense of pride in the strength of these kids. Yet, this film is setting up a sequel, the Chapter Two that was released today. How are we expected to take Pennywise seriously as a threat to a group of adults if a group of kids were able to beat him with ease? Unless the filmmakers are able to account for this, Pennywise will not be a threatening villain in the sequel either.
It: Chapter Two is still on the watchlist. It will be reviewed when the opportunity to see it arises. However, excitement to see this second instalment is low. It will be nice to meet with the Losers’ Club again, but Andy Muschietti needs to have worked out how to actually scare people if the second film is to be a success.