Review | “It: Chapter Two” presents increasingly homicidal Pennywise

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“It: Chapter Two” follows Pennywise terrorizing Derry, Maine, 27 years after his previous murdering spree. The Losers return to their hometown to defeat the murderous clown as adults. WikiCommons

Murderous clowns, childhood friends and grandiose illusions can be found in the recent sequel of the “It” franchise. “It: Chapter Two” is the second film directed by Andres Muschietti and based on the 1986 Stephen King novel. The film follows Pennywise in Derry, Maine, where he returns every 27 years to eat its children. I thought clowns at birthday parties creeped me out, but “It” definitely makes regular clowns look weak and humorous.

In the sequel, 27 years have passed since the first installation. The teenagers are now adults and have moved out of the town of Derry, except for Mike Hanlon. He urged his childhood friends to return to help him fight Pennywise. Once the group is reunited, they are confused as to why they are there, since Pennywise casts a spell of forgetfulness on anyone who leaves the town.

I found this decision to be one filled with plot holes, because I continue to ask myself why the group would listen to Mike and come all the way back to Derry, just to suddenly forget why they decided to return. Does Pennywise’s spell only occur once that person returns to town?

In King’s novel, the story switches back and forth between past and present as the Losers fight the clown as both teenagers and adults. Muschietti decided to break the timelines apart; separating the time periods allowed for less confusion, more time for character development and the opportunity to create a second blockbuster film that holds the second-highest horror movie opening, after its own predecessor.

Like many of King’s novels, “It: Chapter Two” is a very difficult story to translate onto a screen. This problem was evident for Muschietti as he transformed the story into a supernatural horror with a very direct, straightforward plot. Stephen King’s novel was more of a psychological horror, which the film fails to fully capture.

Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of Pennywise is creepier than before because of his emotional range; his performance of Pennywise goes from a lonely and helpless clown to a vicious, shapeshifting demon. He’s more cunning, more manipulative and more dangerous – which can be seen when he traps the kids in the hall of mirrors at the carnival, or when he lures a little girl under her school’s bleachers to eat her alive.

In an interview with Digital Spy, a British entertainment website, Muschietti discussed how Skarsgard enhanced the horror of his performance. “Bill is restless. He wanted to bring something new to the table, and the new things at the table basically have to do with Pennywise’s motivations,” the director said. “He’s more vindictive. Now it’s personal. Everything bad that Pennywise was, now it’s intensified.”

Although the film has its merits, like Pennywise’s ominous backstory and murderous tendencies, there are a few downfalls. Some scenes are a bit confusing due to the lack of scene continuity, something King orchestrates successfully in his novel. In the book, the adult storyline moves at a quicker pace than the teen storyline, as the memories of the adult characters recover much faster than in the film. “Chapter Two” begins to lag and drags out certain scenes that don’t need to be as long.

Beverly Marsh’s horrifying tea party with Pennywise and Richie Tozier’s confrontation with the colossal killer Paul Bunyan carry on for far too long, especially when it holds no dramatic weight for the story. These scenes come directly from the book, but Muschietti fails to tie them together to make any thematic sense – the film did not need to be three hours long.

Despite the unnecessary length, it was way more thrilling and gory than its predecessor. If you love films that make you scream and jump, I would recommend seeing “It: Chapter Two.” However, I can’t promise that you won’t hate the mere sight of clowns afterwards.