Senseless beatings and methodical kidnappings of children sometimes hold a deeper meaning beyond the panic and violence shown on the screen. Following the first iteration of “It,” the sequel will make you question how much a community is willing to sacrifice in order to remain under the radar while also exploring a vast commentary on social issues.
In 2017, I saw the first chapter of “It” and found myself blown away. I have always loved horror films, not for their inevitable gore or jump scares, but for their critical look at social issues. The only problem with the first chapter of “It” is that it wasn’t a horror film more than it was a commentary on the duality of innocence and corruption; competence and ignorance. These dialectical opponents don’t just return to “It Chapter Two,” but they are expanded into an adult life. The themes of “It” return with the same ferocity as Pennywise himself, but instead of threatening the lives of our protagonists, these themes instead hold a mirror up to its audience and ask, “Are you any better?”
Without getting into major spoilers, “It Chapter Two” follows the same characters from the first film both in their youth and 27 years after the traumatic events of their summer misadventures. Through flashbacks, the kids are shown quipping and dealing with the stressors of prepubescent life while their older versions dive into their fears to retrieve the key to defeating Pennywise. The characters evolve when they leave Derry (their hometown in Maine), but once they return it’s as if they’ve turned time itself around and become children again. They shrink behind their childhood fears, surround themselves with relics from a childhood in Derry, and bicker back and forth relentlessly as if partaking in some unique form of escapism.
As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that the characters haven’t regressed into their childhood personas, but they have instead regained the innocence that was taken from them by Pennywise’s first attack. He sewed small seeds of corruption, forcing them to act in distasteful ways (especially in the book), but the innocence of the kids is what saved them. Bill’s steadfast belief that his brother would come home, and the so-called Loser Club’s staunch interdependence overcame the psychological torture that was in the first chapter of “It.” This is another instance of the story’s duality in human nature: the gang defeated Pennywise together, but ultimately has to confront him again because of their decision to promise a reunion in the face of Pennywise’s return.
The competency of Derry’s citizens is questioned numerous times with a heinous hate crime that goes ignored and multiple children going missing without so much as a search party being organized. The people of Stephen King’s old fashioned, yet mysteriously industrialized town shadow incompetence behind ignorance, and creates an environment that tolerates hatred and bigotry.
The movie’s final impact on me was as a fan of beautiful camera work and post-production magic, so much credit to the director, Andrés Muschietti, and that team. There are two shots that stand out in my mind, even after two weeks of downtime between my first viewing. There is a brilliant establishing shot within 10 minutes of the opening credits that is able to showcase both the allure of Derry, and the horror of Pennywise’s ‘deadlights’ (maybe a purposeful tie in to the movie’s theme of duality). The cinematography coupled with sound design throughout the rest of the movie was terrific, and it gave Derry a unique tone that isn’t likely to be replicated.
If I had to describe my experience, I believe relaying that I had a pit in my stomach during the final two hours of this three-hour film would do a great job. The movie is suspenseful and thoughtful, with some humor to add levity when needed. The most stressful part was simply the movie’s mirroring effect. In the face of hatred and violence, many characters lived by the old military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which is to say, they ignored the true horrors of everyday life such as homophobia and xenophobia, opting to hide behind the deceptive shade of obliviousness. For me, this is the scariest part of the movie. If so many seemingly competent adults are more than willing to stand idly by as bullies torture kids for being fat, black, or stuttering when speaking, who’s to say any of us would behave differently? Shouldn’t a world that feels as real as Stephen King’s Derry seem more distanced to the rational person?
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, do yourself a favor and push through. It may not be as stressful to all viewers, but going for the cinematography alone is worth the ticket price. Coming out on the other side, you’ll receive the full experience of a Stephen King thriller as well as the compelling post-production work of Andrés Muschietti and his team while realizing that the true horrors of “It Chapter Two” are not reserved for the screen, but present in our everyday lives.
Cover photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Body photo courtesy of Pixabay.