REVIEW: ‘It Chapter Two’ terrifies with impressive finale to saga

The “Losers’ Club” reunites as adults in “It Chapter Two” now played by Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan (left to right). (Photo from IMDB)

On a warm Wednesday night, crowds poured into the School of Cinematic Arts’ George Lucas Building 30 minutes early in anticipation of  the “It Chapter Two” early screening. Spirits were high, and chatter filled the concourse. Doors finally opened at 6:30 p.m., and they were promptly closed six minutes later as the room had already reached maximum capacity, cutting off more than half the line. 

Twenty-seven years have passed since the murders in the town of Derry chronicled in the first film. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) still lives in Derry and, upon learning about the recent uptick in murders, he calls for a reunion of his childhood friends — making up the Losers’ Club — to defeat Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), who is back and stronger than ever. Director Andres Muschietti seamlessly switches between the summer of 1989 and present day, highlighting the parallels between youth and adulthood, however similar yet dramatically different  they may be. 

The sequel sees the once-misfit children entirely abandoning their lives as successful comedians, screenwriters and insurance agents to fight off the evil that has been lurking in their hometown. The reunion enforces the first of many testaments to tradition and friendship that have shaped the two films. 

Once the present-day Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), Bill (James McAvoy), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) and Ben (Jay Ryan) assemble, evil begins to present itself. At a happy-go-lucky reunion dinner, small demons appear, eerily crawling out of fortune cookies. Though the group immediately looks to fleeing the city for good, they quickly realize they are all bonded by the traumatic events of their childhood years. This shared trauma drives the film forward as the group upholds the collective responsibility of protecting its hometown from existential terror.

Eventually, the group discovers how to defeat Pennywise: Each individual is forced to search for a token of their youth to sacrifice in an ancient ritual. Alone and ready to wrangle with their personal demons, each  member encounters a different experience with Pennywise as they search through their childhood trauma in hopes of finding a way out. 

As Richie searches for an arcade token to offer as a sacrifice, he faces his most scarring experience from his childhood. Richie (whose younger self is portrayed by Finn Wolfhard) recalls playing in the arcade and, after he beat a boy in a game of “Street Fighter,” he was made victim to homosexual slurs and felt isolated by his opponent. 

The scene circles back to middle-aged Richie at the park, and Pennywise makes an appearance, revealing that he knows Richie’s biggest secret: his sexual orientation. Richie’s storyline adds depth to one of the most well-known thriller narratives; more than facing a fear of clowns and zombies, coming to terms with one’s true self can prove to be the most challenging task. Walking the line between this emotional subplot and comedic relief, Hader delivers a stellar performance. He eases the film’s jump scares with witty remarks, inciting loud chuckles from the audience.

After much turmoil, the group realizes that in order to defeat the demon, they must convince him that he is mortal and small. This aspect of the film is the most bizarre; at one point Pennywise transforms into a Titan-sized creature only to be defeated by a group of self proclaimed “losers” simply calling him a clown. As an overall fight scene, the last effort to defeat Pennywise may fall short of a Hollywood dream ending, but what it represents makes up for a lack of action. What the audience sees at the end of the film is a group of grown individuals fulfilling a childhood promise to no longer be afraid, satisfying the plot and speaking volumes on the significance of overcoming one’s biggest fear.

The abstract means of defeating a massive Pennywise-crab hybrid perfectly summarizes the themes driving the “It” franchise: Friendship and confidence, once again, defeat the mightiest of demons. No matter how much of a leap of faith director Andy Muschietti expects the audience to make, it was fitting for the film to conclude in this manner.

As a whole, the film offers much more than is expected from a frightening yet silly summer horror film. “It Chapter 2” beautifully captures a sense of nostalgia in the form of a bike ride on a summer day, as well as an excellent reminder of friendship; these individuals, despite losing connection for what could be a lifetime, immediately were willing to put their lives on the line in the name of a sacred bond formed in middle school. Although on a much more life threatening scale, this message should hit home for each audience member and make the film all the more enjoyable.