by CELIA BROCKER
The Losers Club is back and all grown-up in the second part of Stephen King’s adapted novel, which hit the big screen September 6. In the sequel to the 2016 film IT, The Losers must take a trip down memory lane and fully confront their buried trauma in order to defeat the murderous clown Pennywise once and for all.
Set 27 years after the events of the first film, the gang has seemingly moved on from the traumatic events of their childhood. However, this turns out to be the cause of their memories being repressed rather than being dealt with. None of the characters remember their battle with Pennywise, or even each other – no one except Mike, who is the only member of The Losers Club who has stayed in the cursed town of Derry. So when Pennywise rises and begins his purge of the town once again, Mike calls his childhood friends back to Derry to complete the oath they made as children; if Pennywise isn’t dead, they’ll come back and finish what they started.
Once The Losers are all home again (shy of one member) and the memories start coming back, it’s clear they haven’t really let go of the past after all. Beverley is married to a man similar to her abusive father, Ben still pines after his childhood crush, Richie makes a living as a lonely comedian with a big secret, Eddie is trapped in a marriage modeled after his relationship with his mother, and novelist Bill can’t write a book without an ending everyone doesn’t hate (which seems to be author Stephen King poking fun at himself).
The Losers are reluctant to take on Pennywise again after remembering the horrors they endured as young children, but they have no choice. Pennywise has infected their minds like a virus, and unless they defeat him for good this time he will eventually poison them from the inside. And as Pennywise only returns every 27 years, it’s now or never.
Luckily, Mike has been doing his homework and has discovered that the only way Pennywise can be beaten is if he is returned to his true form by way of an ancient ritual. The ritual requires everyone to find a token from their past to burn, a way to let go of some of their baggage. In scenes designed to evoke nostalgia, each member of The Losers Club remembers what it was like to be young and seemingly reflect on the fact that adulthood doesn’t change you as much as you might think. In fact, all of the characters are startlingly similar to their younger selves, a testament to the actors who are near perfect embodiments of the younger cast.
The horror part of the film is done very well, mixing classic elements of horror with the modern methods of cgi. But now that the characters have matured into adulthood, their fears have grown too. Gone are the days where scary paintings and mummies are the most frightening things they can think of – now their fears encompass the nightmares of adults. In the films most climactic scene, Bill finally confronts his survivor’s guilt head-on, Ben and Beverley struggle against being buried alive by their past demons alone, while Richie and Eddie open a door labeled “very scary” and are faced with… a closet.
Fans of King’s It have theorized for years about the sexualities of these two characters and Chapter Two seems to be the final proof, when Richie carves his and Eddie’s initials together on the town bridge in his youth then revisits to recarve them as an adult. But while Richie’s feelings are glaringly clear, Eddie’s are barely touched on in the film, despite the latter having more issues to confront (his hypochondriasis, his mommy issues, etc.). While the film should be applauded for its efforts to be more inclusive, Chapter Two disservice itself by keeping their cards too close to the chest, especially since the film is set in 2016 and has been released in 2019. It’s time for cinema to leave the world of ambiguity when it comes to same-sex relationships and fully embrace the climate of the world today.
Of course there is plenty of love to go around, as the love-triangle between the three B’s – Bill, Ben, and Beverley – finally come to a head in Chapter Two. Thankfully the film doesn’t waste time dancing around these three, since it is fairly obvious what the outcome will be 30 minutes into the story.
The film spends most of its runtime hyping the audience for the final battle, so by the time it finally rolls around nerves are high. But of course things don’t go as planned, and it looks like all hope may be lost for The Losers until they realize they can shrink Pennywise into a size they can beat if they make him feel small. As they torment Pennywise and feed on his insecurities just as has fed on theirs, Pennywise loses all power over The Losers and watches helplessly as they crush his heart. In this startling sequence, Chapter Two demonstrates to the audience that no one can have power over you unless you let them. It’s a message that hits home for children and adults, as there are many in both age groups who don’t need clown make-up and shape-shifting abilities to strike fear into our hearts. But if we don’t give them our permission, they will never make us believe we are small.