The first ‘It’ movie was a big thing for the nefarious Warner Bros. studio backing it in 2017, singlehandedly saving it from a disappointing year of returns at the box office. While its big tentpole property, ‘Justice League’ failed to make a mark and draw sufficient audience to the theatre despite being one of the costliest films ever produced, this little horror flick produced for a tenth of the price tag ended up being the highest-grossing horror film, ever, and still is to date, given that its reign is not threatened by its own sequel that is back with bigger, gorier scares and twice the size of the cast. The disappointing box office returns continued well into 2019 too, for, I might add, everybody that is not Disney or Marvel, but we might find the second chapter closing out Stephen King’s horror adaptation of the same name, being WB’s salvation yet again. I am sure most of you would be making your way to the theatres to catch the second chapter this weekend, so be sure to come back here for a detailed breakdown on the plot, the ending, and chances of a sequel to the hit duology of films. Read on.
Plot: Brief Overview
As the trailers very discreetly put out, it has been 27 years since the Losers club banished Pennywise the clown from their fictional town of Derry, Maine, and moved on with their lives after that. However, something foul has been at play since the day that they left Derry, and their memories pertaining to the events of 27 years ago, are clouded. It is as one of the Losers exclaims, “Like pages torn out of a book”. All of the Losers are now leading successful lives in different states with no recollection of any of the events or of the other Losers, when they are summoned by Mike Hanlon, the only one to have stayed back in the town of Derry and still reeling from the trauma of the Losers’ faceoff with the murderous clown all those years ago. As was foretold, Pennywise returns to Derry after a span of 27 years. One of the Losers, Stanley Uris, commits suicide at his place, seemingly out of fear. As the number of murders and disappearances begin to rise, Mike recruits the losers once again after uniting them to face off against Pennywise, one final time. Although this time, he claims to know exactly how.
All the while he stayed back in Derry, Mike obsessively studies about Pennywise and the history of the town of Derry, even taking up an employment and residence at the town Library. He discovers a nomadic tribe of people living on the outskirts of the town that first tried to banish Pennywise, the Shokopiwah, contacts their leader, and learns of Pennywise’s true form, and how he could be killed for good, through something known as the ritual of Chud. He also acquires a vessel like artefact that will help them perform the ritual. He eventually has all the Losers rally to his cause, and in an effort to have their memory restored, asks each of the Losers to revisit familiar places to seek a physical object, a token, that would restore a distinct part of their memory. This is where the film allows a back and forth narrative with flashbacks of the Losers when they were young with their memory being restored eventually.
A couple of subplots aside, one even including a possessed and now deranged Henry Bowers escaping from his mental institution and attacking the Losers individually, each of the Losers encounter their personal demons, overcome them and meet at the old abandoned house from the first film to try and eliminate Pennywise for good. After a tense twenty minutes or so in the house of horrors, the group discover Pennywise’s actual hiding place, a network of caves even beneath the well they discovered from the first film, which is also the place Pennywise originated from, or atleast the malevolent entity guiding or empowering him did. The Losers prepare to perform the ritual there, burning their “tokens” in the artefact, holding hands and chanting in an attempt to summon the power behind Pennywise, revealed to be the three spheres of bright light that are also present inside Pennywise’s mouth otherwise, known to cause his victims to be in a catatonic state. Deadlights, as they are called in the film. The spheres appear, but in a state of kinetic darkness, in line with what the losers were chanting, and so does Pennywise. And now to the end.
The Ending, Explained
The finale of the film, intent on putting on fine display twice the budget of the first film through the use of CGI and other effects-heavy scares, pits the Losers against a giant, spider-like Pennywise that has blades for pincers. It is at this moment that the clown reveals to the losers what Mike had hidden from them all this while, obscuring the fourth side of the artefact that told of the graphic outcome of the face-off between the tribe and Pennywise. A brief flashback shows that the tribe lost and was brutally killed by the spirit inside Pennywise. The face-off continues, while the losers are all individually pitted against their own fears, before overcoming them and realising that the key to defeating Pennywise was to first get him to his regular size, something that was also sermonised by the Shokopiwah tribe to Mike.
Amidst the frantic happenings, Richie taunts Pennywise and is caught by him, being put in a catatonic state by staring at the deadlights through Pennywise, also revealed to be powering him. In a rare moment of bravery for the otherwise timid and scared Eddie, he strikes Pennywise through his open mouth with the same rod Beverly used in the first film, leading to Pennywise falling and impaling himself on one of the sharp rock edges of the ritual space. However, in retaliation, Pennywise impales Eddie through the abdomen with one of his pincers, leading to him dying at the spot. While Pennywise repeatedly utters that he cannot be defeated, being the eater of worlds, the Losers try to overcome the source of his power leading him to take on the form of the oversized spider, by calling him out as merely a clown, an imposter or a bully, in the process, overcoming their fear of him. Pennywise, defeated and in denial, quickly shrinks to even smaller than his regular size, finally being defeated by the Losers when Mike pulls his heart out and the losers crush it. The caves and the old abandoned house collapse unto itself as the Losers escape, later going for a swim in the same lake from the first film. The group tearfully bids goodbye to both Stanley and Eddie before returning to their normal lives, with Richie revealing his hidden love for Eddie by carving his name along with Eddie’s on a wooden fence.
Decoding The Scene: The Marsh House
I usually don’t discuss entire scenes in great length from a film, but this one especially seemed to have a lot of work put in, and a number of intelligent references that are otherwise easy to miss. While collecting her token, Beverly goes back to her old house, which, quite clearly initially has the ‘Marsh’ nameplate, switching to ‘Kersh’ in the blink of an eye. The door is answered by an elderly lady, revealing herself to be Mrs. Kersh, the new owner of the house. Mrs. Kersh, while initially sweet and gentle, quickly unveils her demonic form, but not until two important revelations are made. The first is when Mrs. Kersh begins telling Beverly her family history, informing Bev that her father came to the country and joined the circus. Below is the photograph framed in her house, revealing his act as “the great Pennywise Dancing Clown”, with the devilish grin of the gentlemen pictured immediately revealing him to be Pennywise.
Another interesting thing to note here would be when Beverly returns to her old home, the voice that first answers the door while a shadowy Mrs. Kersh shows up is actually Pennywise’s. You can listen closely since the same segment is also played in the three-minute theatrical trailer of the film released earlier.
The Origins of Pennywise, The Dancing Clown
The film gives us not one, but two fairly elongated glimpses at who the “human” face behind the terrifying clown was. The first is in the picture above, while the second, occurring in the same scene later, is a human apparition of him, warning Bev, while manically applying the white makeup and cutting his characteristic slits through his eyes, manually, in a completely terrifying scene. While I am sure that a prequel or origin story for Pennywise would be on the charts for WB who may not be done milking the cash cow yet, we sure have our hints from this film as to where the clown came into being.
Through Mike’s interaction with the tribe, it is most definitely revealed that the horrific entity, whatever form it took powered by the three spheres of light, had been plaguing the residents of Derry and settlements before it for over millions of years. That’s quite the revelation, and it would be immature to assume that Pennywise, the clown would be the face of that horror for said million years. Remember, the novel, and the film in essence is titled “It” because nobody exactly knows what “It” is. Sure, it has a face and a form, but can willingly transform itself into the fear of the host, courtesy of the three spheres. Coming to the photograph that would be placed at approximately 100 years old in 2017 is when the entity infested Pennywise to become its face, acquire its form. Mrs. Kersh then, his “daughter”, also presumably long dead in the timeline of this movie, is nothing more than a demonic apparition of him.
Another clue in the same direction is provided when Beverly spots rotten skin on her chest, implying that something was wrong with that woman, before she stops being good old lady Kersh and becomes a horribly twisted figure that attacks Beverly. Uneasy silences, quick cuts, and unsettling stares coupled with great camerawork, but the key takeaway here is that the burning spots on her chest that she repeatedly appears to scratch are visibly of the form of the same three spheres, the deadlights, furthering the same hypothesis.
Beginning with the obvious, since the weight of a legacy is a tough one to bear, even with the noblest of intentions. ‘It: Chapter 2’ tries hard to match the freshness and inventiveness (in scares, atleast) of its predecessor, but quickly trades that in for fabricated body horror, and an overuse of special effects in the final act. It’s almost as if David Cronenberg was an unofficial advisor on some of the scenes, including one where spider legs pop out of a decapitated head. There are still a couple of genuinely terrifying scenes, but the film plays out more like a dramatic thriller, as opposed to the teen-horror-comedy that the first one was, a formula that clearly worked for the first film, and one that is very visibly being attempted to be grasped here, with mixed results. As with the previous film, what works here is the terrific cast and the chemistry and humour between them, especially Bill Hader who is a star here. Infact, what’s worthy of appreciation is that the casting team manages to pick very believable actors for the adult Losers, in a way that you know the young Losers would turn out to be all grown up.
Pennywise too is terrifying as ever, but here, being pitted against adults rather than kids makes him lose some of the all overcoming terror. And I am not even discussing the completely ridiculous dismissal towards the finale of the film yet. All said and done, if you loved the first chapter, the second one does have a lot in store for you, especially if you are looking for a resolution and if the trailers intrigued you. A little trimming around the edges could have helped the film, given that ‘It: Chapter 2’ goes on for almost 3 hours, but there are only a few patches when the film’s length wears you down. It all ends just fine, with virtually the same blueprint as the first one, more lavishly spread and with more individual moments. Solid 7/10, but keeping your expectations in check might help.
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