I’m pretty sure I watched more movies in twenty-seventeen than the past two years combined. Probably-sparked by my move to Columbus, OH, I gained a fascination with film that I never really had before. And although most of my favorite movies from that year were low-budget indie-films, IT (2017) (which isn’t the highest-budget movie I guess) was one of the more popular titles that I found amazing as well. Outside of maybe the Marvel movies, of course.
IT proved my distaste for most modern-horror wrong, making probably my top five movies of the year. While I was semi-excited for it, and well-aware of the hype surrounding it, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to enjoy it to the extent that I did. My usual problems associated with modern horror are the reliance on jump-scares/overplayed tension, the lack of focus on characters, and the overall predictability. But for the most part, IT stayed away from these large issues I have. Now, yes, it has a pretty large amount of jump-scares, but a lot of the time I wasn’t expecting them, and it also features several fantastic and unique scenes that don’t have jump-scares at all. Most importantly though, Bill Skarsgård stole the show with his acting as Pennywise, the clown, through all of his various appearances.
Pennywise toying with Georgie which is one of my favorite scenes ever
Fast-forward to today, and although I haven’t seen the first movie since soon after its release, I was still very excited to see what they would do with the “second chapter.” I had heard a few conflicting opinions on it beforehand, but nothing large enough to spoil anything, or give me great or horrid expectations for it either. The trailer was also fine, and didn’t give me any information that I didn’t know from the book, so I would say I was generally blank in terms of biases heading in. But sadly, I came out pretty underwhelmed.
Let’s first look at what made the first IT so amazing, and why I found this to not be true for the second. I wouldn’t necessarily say that IT: Chapter Two (2019) features more jump scares than its predecessor, but it doesn’t have many unique, meaningful, or creative ones to balance it out. I would say that the scares often fell into two main categories: jump-scares, and “wow, this is a big monster chasing me” scares, which aren’t really scary as much as just genuinely life-threatening. There were also a few towards the beginning, like in the Asian restaurant, that were obviously imaginary, and not even threatening or foreboding in any way. They were just maybe slightly creepy visually.
Next, let’s talk about the individual characters and their portrayals as well. One thing I had zero problem with was the performance from ninety-nine percent of the cast. I believe everyone thinks Bill Hader did a fantastic job, and while some of the actors didn’t do as well as others, I didn’t find it hard to believe or filled with poor acting. The formula they used was similar to the first too, where they explored the group’s relationships several times, but split up the individuals so we could see each of their true feelings and fears, which is just a good way to pick apart a character. So generally, the character-building and portrayals were fine, but I do think there was one stark difference.
In the first IT, the characters were still kids, each experiencing tons of trauma or abuse in one way or another (the Stephen King way). This made them incredibly sympathetic. As adults though, they do make an attempt to revisit these experiences, either through flashbacks, or through the characters de-aging back to their child selves, internally, but it’s not as effective. I don’t feel incredibly bad for Ben in part two, because he’s attractive, and successful, which actually doesn’t change when he comes back, unlike some of the other characters. I do feel bad for Beverly, due to her domestic abuse issues, but they’re not really touched on past the five-minute mark, which kind of allows you to forget them. And just in general, I don’t care about the characters a large majority of the time.
Now onto the predictability: as I said earlier, they kind of recycled a lot of the direction from the first, which is good in many ways, but bad in some others. When each character split off from each other to find their “artifact,” they all experienced appearances of IT, much like in the first film. However, the main differences between watching the two are our past knowledge of everything they’re scared of, and just the prior exposure to the pattern. After the first or second of these scenes, I could almost picture-perfect describe what was going to happen to the kids. They face their horrid fears once again, and this time without much change. I will say I wasn’t expecting Paul Bunyan to come alive and attack Bill Hader’s character, but that lack of predictability didn’t make it scary. Other scenes, like the one with the little girl under the bleachers, were attempts to have more subtle, interesting scares, but were really just copy-pastes of the Georgie scene. And of course, reliant on the tension built up before the jump scare; something I do not like.
Bill Hader right before being chased by giant Paul Bunyan
To end our discussion of the direct comparison between the two movies, in terms of my issues with modern horror, let’s talk about Pennywise. Unsurprisingly, I have no qualms against Bill Skarsgård at all. I don’t think he did any better or worse in this film than the last, but everything he was given was monumentally worse. I didn’t really recognize it until I went back and rewatched several scenes from the first movie, but there are almost no scenes where Pennywise is acting like a person at all, whereas in the first, there are so many times his appearance is almost human-like, joyous, and ever-the-more creepy. Take the fantastic Georgie scene, for example. It’s like three to four minutes of dialogue between him and Georgie, and although you know what happens, the ability for Pennywise to be his own character and goof off really helps the immersion of the whole thing. When the movie lacks this though, it comes with a whole other list of issues.
As I said before, this movie is lacking all the interesting scares that made the first unique to me. In the first movie, Pennywise was always lurking, toying with them, hiding in the shadows ready to strike. In this movie, he is very present a lot of the time, but not in a foreshadowing, eerie way whatsoever. Any time you actually see him, it’s in some sort of way that just turns him into a basic monster (except the little girl scene from earlier, I guess).
Pennywise lurking everywhere in the first IT
A perfect example of this is the scene from the trailer, where they’re in the hall of mirrors. Once Pennywise shows up, nothing interesting happens. He breaks the glass and eats the kid. He shows up ready to feast on him; doesn’t jaunt up to him like in the fridge scene from the first one, doesn’t really say anything, just does what you know he’ll do: eat a child. The final like thirty minutes of the movie, where he’s a giant spider-crab, aren’t at all frightening from any point of view other than “he might kill them.” He’s essentially a bad guy from any super hero movie at that point. At least in the first movie, in the underground end scene, he was still a clown and therefore similar to a person. A great example of how this is attempted but ruined is the old lady scene. She was incredibly creepy, unsettling, and honestly scary on her own. But suddenly she start scurrying like a bug in the background, making the whole theater laugh, and then turns into a giant, dumb, CGI monster that chases Bev.
Which finally brings me to one of my biggest issues with the movie: the CGI. Gosh dang did this hurt the movie a lot, for everyone I’ve talked to. So many of the monsters, of the scenes, of the everything featured CGI, and ninety percent of the time it was horrible. There was the scene with the old lady, the scene where Bev is locked in the stall and all of the people knock on it, several parts of the end scene in general. Either it was poorly-placed or just poorly done. And some of the random visuals were very bad as well. Take the scene from the trailer where Pennywise comes to help someone out of the river. I saw that initially and prayed it wouldn’t be in the final cut of the movie, because the blur effect and the camera movement are unlike anything else in either movie, and just look entirely out of place. There were several scenes where he was in the sewer and lurking around, but this one is literally miles away from all of those.
The shot I am currently talking about
In the end, I know I make it sound like a horrible movie, and that’s not necessarily it, but it’s not what I wanted or expected, coming out of the first. I would easily rate the first one either an eight or a nine out of ten, so my expectations were pretty high. As I said, all of the performances were good, a couple scenes were genuinely scary, and obviously the story is decent, but that’s more just carried by Stephen King’s initial writing. So it’s not the worst movie I’ve seen, nor the worst horror movie. I would probably rank it a four out of ten. Certainly below average. It’s sad, because I think it’s just due to their priorities. They decided it was going to be grandiose because they had more money, but bigger and more CGI don’t mean scarier. I probably won’t watch this again anytime soon.