Review: "It: Chapter 2" surpasses prequel in thrill and quality

by James Cronin | 9/27/19 2:00am

 As a Dartmouth student, the end of summer can be a pretty lonely time. With almost all other colleges starting the last week of August, the stretch between when home friends leave to the journey back to Hanover can be a slow and painful one. I am on campus now, of course ­­— and it would be an understatement to say that my schedule is just a bit chaotic — but when I lived in a ghost town for those couple weeks, I had nothing but free time. 

On Sept. 5, in my infinite boredom, I realized that “It: Chapter 2” would come out in theaters later that night. I instantly knew that for the first time in a long time, I would have something else to do with my night besides watching re-runs of the “Jeopardy! All-Star Games” with my parents. Because neither my mom nor dad love Stephen King — or clowns — all that much, I went to the 10:45 p.m. showing by myself. Driving home that night was not a fun time.

“It: Chapter 2” sees Andy Muschetti at the helm again for the sequel of his 2017 smash-hit reboot of “It,” based on the King novel. “It: Chapter 2” stars Andy Bean, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone and Jay Ryan as the grown-up versions of the Losers Club, which is what the friends call their group, and features Bill Skarsgård reprising his role as Pennywise the clown. 

This time around, 27 years after the Losers Club first defeated Pennywise, It has returned. In accordance with the oaths they made as preteens, the now adult members of the club return to Derry, ME to defeat the evil clown once and for all. Peppered in between all the scary hijinks that accompany their reunion are flashbacks to the 1980s that include appearances from the cast of the first movie.

Clocking in at two hours and 49 minutes “It: Chapter 2” is the longest horror movie I have ever seen and the second longest movie I have seen in 2019 — “Avengers: Endgame” is a mere 12 minutes longer. For many people, the runtime of the movie will be its scariest aspect, but I was delighted to hear the movie would be that long. 

Long movies rarely let me down. Many of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese’s lengthy films occupy high spots on my top-movies list. For a big-budget film like “It: Chapter 2,” I see a long runtime as a sign of good faith and an endorsement of the movie’s quality from the production company. A longer runtime means a movie cannot be shown as often as a shorter film. Therefore, longer movies must rely on marketing hype and film quality to make a similar profit to that of a shorter movie. The long runtime also means that the director and editor sat down, watched the whole thing and agreed that there was not much they could cut without compromising the director’s vision. Indeed, the film did not let me down, but I do think it was a bit longer than it needed to be.

While I enjoyed every minute of it, “It: Chapter 2” could have easily been 30 minutes shorter. The flashbacks, which I am sure were included to make the film more faithful to the King novel did not really add much to the movie beyond a few good jump scares. The flashbacks cause the movie to drag on at times, and while I did not hate them by any measure, they did make the movie feel like the plot was just spooky meandering at times.

Despite the slightly bloated runtime, I loved the movie. I enjoyed the first movie despite not liking how the decade changed from the ’50s, which is when the books are set, to the ’80s. It felt to me that it was done in order to cash in on the “Stranger Things”-induced ’80s nostalgia that has been so popular the last few years. Unsurprisingly, the first film felt like a slightly darker “Stranger Things” — Finn Wolfhard included — but the sequel drops the nostalgia factor and is all the better for it.

Despite the fact that the movie has the makings of a quality film, that is not to say that Muschetti sacrifices thrill. I am no chicken. I love a good horror movie, and I love being scared by a film. It is difficult to create entertainment that can elicit strong, physical responses from an audience, so I was impressed by Muschetti and Skarsgård when I literally could not fall asleep for two hours because Pennywise would not leave my thoughts alone. That is the first time that has ever happened to me. This movie scared me on multiple occasions, and while some of the scares were cheap jump scares, Skarsgård’s performance will be seared into my memory for the rest of my life. 

Speaking of acting performances, they are all great. Unsurprisingly, McAvoy did a notable job as the adult Bill Denbrough. He disappeared completely into the role, stutter and all. Another standout performance was Hader’s. If you have not seen the HBO series “Barry,” which stars Hader, you would be forgiven for wondering what a comedian like him is doing in a serious horror movie. If you have seen “Barry,” you know that his acting ability is no joke and that few actors can make you laugh one moment and then cry the next like he can. Skarsgård takes the cake though, giving the most impressive and memorable performance.

I saw “It: Chapter 2” three weeks ago. It entertained me for two hours and 49 minutes and gave my adrenal glands a workout. Its runtime is long, but I enjoyed the whole ride. How the “It” duology will be remembered critically in the annals of horror film history, I am not sure. What I am sure about is that the pair of films — if you find being scared by movies fun — are a good time. If you have the copious amounts of free time that I no longer have, I would recommend spending close to three hours being thrilled and getting chills watching “It: Chapter 2.” With Halloween just over a month away, it is a perfect time to be reminded of just how much you hate clowns.