M.L. Miller here! Because you and I love the horror so much, I’ve decided to post a “Worth Noting” pick along with each of my Horror Countdown choices each day through October. The same rules apply. The film must have been released before September 30th, 2019 to the masses (no festival picks). This means that is available to view in theaters, On Demand, DVD/BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films.
How did I compile this list? Horror is such a broad and varied genre that sometimes, while these choices may not represent the best—something about the film is worth taking notice. Some of these films have similar themes to their counterparts in the main countdown. Some just missed the countdown by an inch or two. Others were just squozed in because there’s nothing like them out there. Others because they have been made available for the first time. One way or another, it’s more horror to enjoy!
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Worth Noting – IT CHAPTER TWO
While the focus is on childhood trauma, here’s one of my more controversial picks this year. IT CHAPTER ONE ended up on my main 31 list last year, but I found the second chapter to be somewhat lacking when compared with the first. Muschietti went back to the well for the same type of scares a bit too much and there was a cheeky side to IT CHAPTER TWO that wasn’t there in the first. There are also a lot of story choices that make the film a bloated flick to sit through. I think it’s an important film from the last year…just not one of the best. Released on September 6, 2019, here’s IT CHAPTER TWO! Still in theaters! Available soon on DVD/BluRay, digital download, and On Demand
IT: CHAPTER TWO (2019)
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Gary Dauberman, based on the novel by Stephen King
Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Nicholas Hamilton, Javier Botet, Xavier Dolan, Taylor Frey, Molly Atkinson, Joan Gregson, Stephen Bogaert, Luke Roessler, Stephen King, Peter Bogdanovich, Will Beinbrink, Jess Weixler, Martha Girvin, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Jackson Robert Scott, Jake Weary, Katie Lunman, Kelly Van der Burg, Jason Fuchs, Joe Bostick, Megan Charpentier, Juno Rinaldi, Neil Crone, Ry Prior, Owen Teague, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson, Connor Smith, Amanda Zhou, Rob Ramsay, John Connon, Doug MacLeod, Brandon Crane, Ari Cohen, Sonia Maria Chirila, Anthony Ulc, & Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise!
IT CHAPTER ONE is a film that pairs a strong cast with some great performances and some stellar material. The first chapter is funny, heart-wrenching, and downright terrifying at times. Though the director used the “comin’ at cha!” shock every chance he could get, the film ended up being quite effective. The true challenge for IT CHATER TWO was to make it equally engaging without all of the 80’s nostalgia and cute kid performances to rely on. Sure, it’s interesting to see these kids take on a giant monster, but have those kids all grown up and doing the same thing is a little trickier. The results make IT CHAPTER TWO both an accomplishment and a disappointment. I can recognize the film for its achievements and the attempt to commit to complete the story Stephen King wrote, but I am not as enamored with the sequel as I was with the original.
IT CHAPTER TWO catches us all up with the Losers, a group of kids who were able to momentarily defeat a creature they refer to as It when they were children in the small town of Derry, Maine in the mid-80’s. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) is then only one of the Losers to stay behind in Derry, so he remembers the events from their childhood the clearest. The rest left Derry and became quite successful in their respective lives, forgetting about the horrors of their past. But when a series of disappearances and deaths begin again, Mike calls the gang and tells them that It has returned and they must reunite in Derry in order to take It on one last time.
IT CHAPTER TWO does a lot of things right. The cast is pretty good with Bill Hader’s grown up Richie who of course is able to break the tension with clever, witty banter, but also carries a lot of dramatic heft with ease as a grown up still having issues with his homosexuality (an aspect that is barely hinted at in the original, thus feels a bit smooshed in here). Hader’s character is the best of the bunch and hopefully, if anything, this (and his excellent BARRY series) gets him much more work. James McAvoy as the stuttering Bill is decent but is ultimately given little to work with. His performance is always strong, but he just doesn’t stand out in this group as much as he should and I blame the script for that. Jessica Chastain is probably given the most to work with. The problem is that her major conflict happens during her introduction when she gets out of her abusive relationship. The rest of the film she is already free from her burdens she made for herself after leaving Derry and I think it is a missed opportunity to have the abusive husband taken care of so quickly.
There are characters and actors assigned to them of lesser strength. Jay Ryan is a cypher in this film, seemingly only given the part because of the shock of the “after” body shape compared to the soulful performance of Ben as a chubbster young kid by Jeremy Ray Taylor. James Ransome has gotten much better since his second fiddle days in SINISTER and is able to exude the same frantic energy Jack Dylan Grazer did so well as the hypochondriac Eddie. Finally, Isaiah Mustafa tries to be something more than an expository dump truck, but unfortunately fails to find any kind of personality among his long monologues about the rules of the film. Maybe one or two scenes of Mustafa interacting with Native American tribe rather than him simply telling us about it would have helped. The acting was fine and not the real problem with the film, I think the main fault was the script they were reading from.
I also liked a lot of the scares. While I do feel that Muschietti is using the same scare tactic every time by having Pennywise or some kind of monster race out of the darkness and towards the audience over and over again, he manages to set up these scenes in an excruciatingly patient way. While it was revealed in the trailers, the scene with Beverly and the old lady is by far the creepiest, with Pennywise’s enticing of the small child under the bleachers coming in a close second. There are also a few moments where humor is used well as in the pairing of Hader and Ransome deciding which scary door to enter. These are the standout scenes that really work and save this movie from the more monotonous moments.
The problem is that once the horror is revealed and made clear, the sudden jolt of something charging the screen fades and the CG isn’t as good as I would expect in such a big budget movie. The face of the old woman in the final attack bit of her scene is cartoonish and…well…not scary. It’s more goofy than anything else. The same can be said for a lot of Pennywise’s appearances. Seeing the more deft use of shadow and suspense in the first chapter and compare it to the dog-tongued, googly eyed, melty faced Pennywise is like comparing the effect of Freddy Krueger in the first ANOTS to his more animated goofs in the latter sequels. Bill Skarsgård again tries his damnedest, but the reliance on some rough CG makes this performance pale in comparison to the first.
Simply put, IT CHAPTER TWO is waaaaaaay too long for its own good. Looking at the structure of the film, the gang is introduced and brought together, then they split up and go on their own spirit journeys, then finally they come together to take on It for one last time. SPOILER The problem is that the reason they split up proves to be a big falsehood that has nothing to do with the way they kill It in the end. Mike tells everyone to go and get a totem from their past, so everyone gets their fifteen/twenty minutes to take on some kind of monster involving their own past and psychological issues. This pads out the middle hour, but then when the totems are used, they don’t work, so the past hour feels utterly pointless to the whole of the film. Had this middle hour been truncated (maybe by having the group go off in pairs rather than alone), I don’t think it would have felt so damn long. By the time we got to the final confrontation, it’s anti-climactic because each of the kids had to defeat Pennywise in some way in order to get to the climax already. Having them beat him twice, this time all together, just felt unnecessary. END SPOILER
There are some parts that I really hated. I hated the hokey Stephen King cameo. A Hitchcockian cameo where a character walking by played by a director, I can sit with. Giving that character lines and a whole scene makes it all feel like that uncomfortable Tarantino scene from PULP FICTION. I also hated THE THING homage when Stanley’s head sprouts spider legs and skuttles away. What does THE THING have to do with IT? Finally, the music paired with Eddie being puked on after failing to save his bound mother in the pharmacist’s basement was goofy and cute, yet utterly pointless. These scenes feel like the director not adapting but adding his own “stamp” with the material and simply making irrational decisions.
The other thing that really didn’t sit well with me was the multiple endings which felt very LOTR for me as it felt as if Muschietti felt we really needed to feel every inch of our departure from Derry. We get a segment taken straight from STAND BY ME and a lot of hokey posturing in front of mirrored windows. I feel Jackson, having married LOTR for almost a decade, deserved a lengthy goodbye, but I don’t know of Muschietti deserved the same.
Still, I jumped quite a few times at IT CHAPTER TWO. There are some very ballsy decisions and it does a fantastic job of adapting one of the most difficult books in modern times and making it safe for mainstream audiences. I would recommend IT CHAPTER TWO to those who sat through the first and fans of the book. I don’t think this one stands on its own and I feel a lot of audiences will check out at the lengthy runtime. Still, it’s an achievement just to be made. I know with all of my criticisms, it makes it out to be that I didn’t like the film. I did, but with a film this big, there are a lot of times to get right or mess up. As a whole, I think the entire series, CHAPTERS ONE AND TWO, is something of an oddity in horror. Something worth watching when interested in a long deep-dive into horror. While the second is less effective than the film, viewed as a whole, Muschietti should be commended for doing the almost-impossible.
WORTH NOTING SO FAR…
IT CHAPTER TWO
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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