By Bradley Lane
Andy Muschietti’s It (2017) is currently the highest grossing horror film of all time. Naturally then, adapting Stephen King’s work became the hottest trend in Hollywood horror. Since the success of It there have been have feature films adapted from King’s work and there are currently two set to release later this year and three more in development. Unfortunately, these films have lacked the quality of It, more than likely due to rushed production to cash in on the current King craze. It Chapter 2 promises to be more than just another remake though, because it is written and directed by the team that started the trend, and not just another imitator.
Similar to the 1990 mini-series, the second half of the adaptation introduces the audience to the original cast of characters from the first half as adults. Most find themselves in similar, if not downright identical scenarios. Beverly is dealing with an abusive spouse rather than an abusive father, Eddie married an overly controlling woman eerily similar to his own mother, Mike is struggling with an intense obsession with the supernatural in Derry, Richie turned his skill of handling trauma with comedy into a career, Ben became a successful and conventionally attractive architect but is deeply lonely in his successes and Bill became a celebrated author, despite the universal claim that his endings are awful. However, when Mike finally discovers proof that Pennywise is back in Derry, he calls the Losers club back to defeat him, once and for all.
The most striking aspect of It Chapter 2 is just how well the cast represents the characters presented in the first film. Not only do the actors physically resemble the child actors they replaced, but they also present a logical progression of their characters. Twenty-seven years have passed since the events of the first film, and while some character elements and mannerisms have remained consistent, they have all grown in convincing ways since the first film. Throughout the film its most compelling element is how the characters deal with their own personal issues as they interact and collaborate with one another to stop Pennywise.
Unfortunately, while the character development shines in It Chapter 2, the technical aspects, and more specifically, the direction and special effects work often distracts from the most important elements of the story. The direction is almost uniformly uninspired in sections of the film designed to scare audiences. There is an overreliance on cheap and dull jump scares, Dutch angles (a technique that tilts the camera to denote psychological tension in the subject being filmed) and strobe lighting effects. The film is at its weakest when it neglects its more interesting character moments, to focus on the more crowd pleasing scary sequences. It gets so caught up in these horror signifiers that it loses focus on what makes It so special in the first place, its characters.
Despite these missteps, the film’s finale is extremely cathartic and ultimately expresses a compelling message about overcoming trauma and the role friendship plays in that battle.