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September 14 , 2019. By Christian Tesfaye( Christian Tesfaye was Fortune’s Op-Ed Editor and currently works as a researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
It Chapter 2 delivers on some major scares but fails to distinguish itself from its predecessor. Christian Tesfaye awards it 6 out of 10 stars.
The older we become the scarier we tend to find horror movies. It is probably because we grow much more aware of the vulnerability of existence. As children, we are protected by our own naivety, parents and schools from most of the negative effects of life. The concept of death, claustrophobia, loneliness, mental illness, regrets and secrets, which are some of the most popular themes in horror movies, are almost alien.
But then the familial and sociopolitical seatbelt we are made to wear as children is taken off, sometimes too soon, and we are left to fend for ourselves. We suddenly realise what a cold, dark and scary place the world we live in really is. Instantly, all those horror movies become metaphors for our existential angst, the vulnerability of our physical and mental states and the injustice perpetrated against the weak by the strong on a daily basis.
We are actually fortunate that most horror films are lazily written and thus reliant on jump-scares. However unimaginative movies like The Conjuring are, at least they do not induce in us blood-curdling fear about a certain psychological, physical or social manifestation that actually exists in the real world.
Imagine if every horror movie was like The Babadook, the most terrifying movie this decade, which portrays motherhood as an experience no less terrifying than battle in the trenches of World War I. Despite my constant dismissal that most movies of the genre are just scary and not terrifying enough, I actually do not believe humanity can take too many Babadooks.
It Chapter Two is somewhere between The Babadook and lame duck horror flicks such as Annabelle. The fact that it is an adaptation of one of Stephen King’s (who gets a Stan Lee-style cameo in this film) well-known novels has helped ground it by giving it a theme. But the film’s inability to include some of the most important elements of the book is its Achilles’ heel.
The events of this film take place 27 years after the events of the first movie. The Losers, as the band of teenagers that took down Pennywise The Dancing Clown were endearingly known, are now all grown up and have branched out into diverse sets of careers. One member, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), managed to stay back in their old town of Derry to keep an eye out for Pennywise.
The clown finally comes out of hibernation, and Mike contacts every single one of the group to deliver on the promise they made almost three decades ago to return to the town. The rest of the film is more or less similar to that of the second and third acts of the first movie. They must overcome their fears and perform an ancient ritual to get rid of Pennywise before its children killing spree takes its toll.
After the success of the first film, this one has managed to attract some big name actors like James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, both of whom give performances as good as is usually expected of them. But Bill Hader, who plays Richie, the comic relief of the group, steals the show with his performance of a complex, conflicted and cowardly character.
Of course, as in the first movie, the best thing about this adaptation is Bill Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise. It is creepy, kind of funny and terrifying all at once. There have been few facial expressions, tones of voice and physical motions as fear inducing as the ones Skarsgard conjures up for the character. If this film ever becomes a classic, it would be for the portrayal of a truly terrifying clown.
Unfortunately, the film is dragged down by the inconsistency of the actions of the villain, which manages to kill other characters swiftly while being perfectly content with merely scaring the protagonists. There is an explanation for this in the books (they are being protected by a giant turtle god - after all this is a Stephen King novel, there always has to be something kooky somewhere) but the film refuses to provide an answer in any way.
But if it is pure scares that make a horror movie great, which it is not, this movie scores all the points. It is better seen in the theater, where the large screen and state of the art sound systems collude to create a cinematic experience worthy of a horror film much better than It.
PUBLISHED ON Sep 14,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1011]
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