IT: Chapter 2
As the Loser’s Club reconvenes 27 years after the fateful summer of 1989, “IT: Chapter 2” provides countless jump scares rivaling the cheap fear of walking through a haunted house, hallucinatory antagonists that dance the line between reality and apparition and an exceptional cast in its somewhat pretentious 170-minute runtime.
The kids — now adults with spouses, jobs and responsibilities — band together and return to Derry, Maine to finish off the murderous and malevolent Pennywise once and for all. Their mission isn’t what made this movie so alluring, but instead, the actors’ ability to emulate their 13-year-old counterparts. Richie and Eddie’s relationship has hardly changed, still vocalizing who did it with whose mom — juvenile, but hilarious. Bill still has his stutter, but Ben, the fat kid, turned hot.
As sequels often earn themselves the reputation of being lackluster compared to the original, “IT: Chapter 2” follows suit. The plotline struggled to uphold a coherent and fluid path like the first’s. An origin story of Pennywise inhabiting an alternative form terrorizing tribal villages a thousand years ago felt arbitrary and mixed into the new story about as well and oil and water. Ambiguous explanations for how the team finally defeated the clown felt like a cop-out, and left just about every IT fan confused.
And although the plotline felt like a child’s scribble drawing, the visual effects were perfectly nightmarish. Contorted faces, evil and murderous creatures that took the form of each characters’ personal fears felt like what only sleep paralysis could conjure. And instead of the fear that develops from real, present-day fear, the movie generated the irrational and bed-wetting fear of monsters and clowns from childhood.
And while the one-after-the-other pop-up scare routine became frustratingly formulaic, the personality of this film excused the redundancy. Jessica Chastain as Beverly Walsh was an emotive hurricane, starring in a scene bloodier than Carrie. Her connection to viewers reminded us of her abusive past, her complex character, her humane emotions — often dismissed in a thriller. A relationship more surprising than Luke and Darth Vader dropped my heart into my gut and had me crying in the theater — again, not your typical thriller.
Despite the gimmicky jump scares and plot holes, Pennywise and the losers left me feeling more emotional than “The Notebook,” laughing harder “The Hangover” and intensely tuned in for almost three hours as well as promptly researching each cast member’s IMDb history as soon as I stepped out of the theater.
Ready or Not?
Dragging my friends to a movie theater on a Friday night, I tolerated their grievances as to why we were wasting our night at the movie theater, instead of going out and fulfilling our youth. But this movie was something I knew I needed to see the moment I saw the trailer. I needed to because it had a direct connection with my psyche. I needed to because the plotline was an exact replica of every nightmare I’ve ever had.
The charismatic protagonist Grace is ready to fulfill her lifelong dream of having a family when she marries her Prince Charming, the son in a long line of board game tycoons (no, this part is not specific to my dreamworld, that comes later). The night of Grace’s wedding at the Le Domas estate, she is forced to play a game at midnight upheld by a time-old tradition strictly honored and followed by the Le Domas dynasty. As peculiar as it sounded, Grace is assured every new addition to the family must play.
She soon realizes the game she randomly chose, “Hide and Seek” involves her husband’s family hunting her down with crossbows, shotguns and hunting knives to kill her before dawn, all revolving around a curse. They believe if she doesn’t die, they all will and the Le Domas bloodline will end. So all night, she hides in secret tunnels, dumbwaiters and underground sheds (filled with the family’s previous bride and husband victims).
For the first time, I was watching my nightmare of being hunted and chased on screen, not filling the role of main character. Even so, I felt the same panic of being chased with the portending fate of murder.
This movie was cheesy — I won’t try to argue that. But while cheesy isn’t always admirable, it can be entertaining, and this movie was a chill-inducing, fist-pumping, edge-of-your-seat kind of film. When Grace tears her wedding dress to her knees and trades her heels for Converse’s, she loses the polite and perky attitude for a pissed-off, badass one. Absolute crowd pleaser.
The logistics of this binding curse were spotty and inconsistent. The origin of said curse began as the vengeful ancestor of the board game legacy, but while Grace is lying on a satan-star-etched table, the Le Domas’s surrounded her, chanting “Hail Satan!” incantations, it felt like the director took a nap during the storyboard process.
So while the ending was laughably ridiculous with a monumentally cheesy end-line, this hour-and-a-half horror comedy had me cracking up at the ridiculousness of a family unequipped and unable to kill the badass bride, allowing me to receive some closure for my recurring nightmares.