"Something happens to you when you leave this town. The farther away, the hazier it all gets. But me, I never left. I remember all of it."
James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
Once upon a time, there was a little girl in a little town called Derry. She was beautiful and had hopeful eyes and fire hair. She was also misunderstood. The girls made fun of her, called her ugly names. But she wasn't scared of it. No, she carried a demon inside her, far more dangerous than high-school.
There was a boy who had lost his little brother. It changed him forever, he was never the same. His friends tried to console him, but they too were haunted by personal fears. They were scared of being sick, being week, and being unable to hold things inside. A million miles away, there was another boy who fears he will never be a part of Derry. There's also another boy, locked in the library and with his head buried deep in the books. He's afraid too, which is why he stays indoors. Soon, all of them are brought together and form 'The Losers Club".
Things seem alright for a while, as they fought the bullies, went skinny dipping, and explored the city on their bicycles. They rode as fast they could, going toe to toe with the wind and with every paddle, they leave behind their worries. But no matter how much faster they paddled, they can't outrun their traumas. We all experience traumas-deeply disturbing incidents that can leave us broken forever. It pushes us into a constant state of worry and paranoia, making living a life very hard. Trauma becomes a deterrent to achieving a peaceful state of mind.
Sadly, Trauma is cohesive which holds this group together, bringing back 'The Losers' back to Derry after 27 years. Interestingly, the adult lives of 'Losers' are an echo of their past in Derry. Bill, now a writer, has grown protective of his wife and his book endings; since he could not protect his little brother Georgie. Richie, who's never had a filter, finds success as a stand-up comic. Eddie, afraid of being exposed to germs and diseased now works as a risk analyst. He is married to a woman, and the resemblance to her now-dead mother is uncanny. Eddie's Freudian slip is funny to us but brings to mind the past he can't let go of.
Ben, the former fat kid at the school who got bullied is now a chiseled Greek god who is making a fortune. But when confronted with his fears, he is still a scared fat kid deep down. Beverly, who finally left her sexually abusive father, falls in the trap of fatalism, as she finds herself in yet another abusive relationship. Stanley too has left Derry far behind out of sight and out of mind. For them, it's been 27 since they defeated the killer clown Pennywise. They all made an oath, and it seems like they might have to return home after Mike calls them.
The movie opens with a hate crime. It is played to the point of our repulsion, as we are reminded that we live in a world where dangerous indifference and small-mindedness still resides. We understand why 'Losers' left the town even if we want them to get back, leaving us as conflicted as these grown-ups who are asked to kill Pennywise once again. Yes, Pennywise is back. He is alive and kicking, still gnawing off peoples' faces as it pleases him. The body count is rising, as the scary red balloons have started to make a comeback.
The group is summoned back (hesitantly) to the ground zero of their trauma, as the 'Losers' band together for one last time to root out the existence of Pennywise. Mike, armed with mystic ancient knowledge urges them to unburden their pasts. Soon, they all set out to hunt for artifacts from their past for the fulfillment of a ritual that is meant to kill Pennywise, but perhaps it might be a little too late.
The most congratulatory achievement of the movie is its casting. The adults (especially Bill Hader) are cast perfectly. More than casting, it feels like these people ARE the natural progression of the kids from the previous movie. In a cast that carries acting stalwarts like Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, Bill Hader steals the show. The former 'Saturday Night Live' star who has started to gravitate towards more dramatic roles with his HBO show 'Barry' proudly carries the foul-mouthed legacy of Finn Wolfhard with enough emotional depth to make him endearing in our eyes.
The atmosphere and the jump scares are amped up, as the sequel seriously stands on delivering a more heart-pounding experience from its predecessor. The movie also does a divine job of honoring its inception. James McAvoy's writer character who has a hard time with endings feels like a little tongue and cheek at Stephen King's track record with how he ends his novels. Stephen King also cameos as a shop owner, and so does Peter Bogdanovich as a candid director who is out for perfection (perhaps playing himself?) The movie is also gentle with how it juxtaposes the past with the present, bringing us areas outside of the group's friendship. Gary Dauberman's script goes in a different direction, giving all characters moments to truly find themselves.
What feels the most irksome about Andy Muschietti's sequel is that there are times when it mistakes grotesque for scary, going too far with the vilifying creatures. The run time of almost three hours feels like a breeze unless a very boggled 3rd act comes to the surface. It is understood that the movie is about these grownups who confront their fears and secrets, but the lack of Pennywise in this movie makes you frustrated since HE is their fear!
While a personal preference would go in favor of the first movie, 'IT Chapter 2' is a wonderfully done horror-sequel that is not only one of the best movie-going experiences of the year, but also a satisfactory concluding chapter to one of the most beloved Stephen King novels.