It’s interesting when a popular novel with a longstanding fan base just can’t figure out how to garner decent screen adaptations. The most famous example would probably be F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” a book which for some reason still struggles to get a proper cinematic portrayal, even 84 years later. A modern example would be Stephen King’s classic epic horror novel “IT,” which got a second shot at a film interpretation three decades after publication.
Two years after “IT Chapter 1” hit the screen, we now have a sequel, “IT Chapter 2.” The members of the Losers’ Club of Derry, Maine, are now adults. They receive word that they must reunite in their spooky hometown to defeat the menacing, supernatural clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) once and for all. Bill (James McAvoy), Bev (Jessica Chastain), Ritchie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), and Ben (Jay Ryan) have reservations about the task at hand, but Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) is confident with his plan.
The first adaptation of “IT” was a two-part TV mini-series that aired in 1990. It featured an effective, iconic performance by character actor Tim Curry as Pennywise. His delivery and presence are still frightening to this day, but everything else leftover from that version is dated, corny, low-budget, and frankly only scary to viewers under the age of 10. I haven’t read King’s original novel, but I’ve heard from readers and viewers that a big weakness in the story line is that the grown-up segments don’t live up to the quality of the kids’ origins. Sure, the whole scary circus clown aspect is really a disguise for a paranormal demon, but on screen, it just feels silly to see a circus clown terrifying a group of adults.
The fact that dozens of children go missing in this small town is another part of the general premise and it feels pretty ridiculous – even more so when the film is not centered around the kids. Children are missing, but no one thinks to move their families elsewhere?
In many ways, the newer, updated adaptations have the same problems as the old made-for-television version. The special effects are slightly more advanced, but they still look and feel artificial, and director Andy Muschietti’s dependence on jump scares in nearly every horror sequence gets tiring. The kids and adults are allowed to swear this time around, but it feels like the filmmakers are just looking for excuses to drop a few f-bombs. And the comic relief from Hader and Ransone never really lands. On top of all this, it just feels long and overdrawn by the end of its nearly 3-hour runtime.
Maybe there’s something being lost in the transition to celluloid, but for the most part, I’ve just never really gotten the appeal of “IT.” The villain just feels goofy more than scary. It’s not even October yet and I feel confident that “Us” and “Midsommar” will be the best horror films we’ll get this year, with films like “IT Chapter 2” trailing behind by an underground sewer tunnel mile.