Second chapter just doesn’t quite do ‘It’

“It: Chapter Two” is about going back to the past and righting wrongs.

If those wrongs cannot be corrected, they still must be handled somehow. Along the way, there are some scares, some laughs and some deaths.

Andy Muschietti returns to direct the second half of Stephen King’s book, which takes place 27 years after the first.

The film’s opening five minutes depict the savage beating of a gay couple. Truly, this is the scariest scene in the film. Sure, there are some great-looking ghouls and some jump scares along the way, but the first scene is deeply frightening.

I’m usually the first one to say “If it was in the book, I’m fine with it being in the film.” Yet I found this scene wholly unnecessary. Pennywise the Clown (another stellar turn by Bill Skarsgard) could have been re-introduced without it. We never even deal with the characters involved again anyway.

Once that bit of uncomfortableness is over, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), the only friend to have remained in Derry, immediately finds out Pennywise has returned. It is clear he has been doing non-stop research to be ready for this day. However, when he reaches out to all his old friends, we see they are totally unprepared.

Somewhat preposterously, all five of the white male friends have become extremely successful and completely left their past behind. Mike, the only black friend, is jobless and utterly consumed by his studying of Pennywise.

Additionally, the only woman, Bev (Jessica Chastain), is still shackled to the cycle of abuse from her childhood and her husband is a sadistic dirtbag. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it explanation of Bev having been the only one exposed to the “dead lights” as a kid gives a modicum of reasoning to the current state of her life. Over the years, she has had glimpses of the horrible events of her past, yet most of the men have just about forgotten what happened.

Once they return to Derry, Mike spouts some gobbledy-gook about a ritual they need to perform after finding tokens from their individual pasts. Most of them laugh it off but go on their token quests anyways. The film is at its best when it focuses on one character at a time; we get some decent scares and great acting. Bev’s quest, especially, is affecting as she must return to the apartment where her cruel father terrorized her.

Bill Hader shines

The best part of the film, though, is Bill Hader. As grown-up Richie, Hader is great comic relief, capturing the exact essence of his younger counterpart (“Stranger Things” Finn Wolfhard). To a lesser extent, James Ransom as the elder Eddie provides some hilarity. James McAvoy and Chastain bravely handle the grimness. Pennywise is best used sparingly, yet he is used perhaps too sparingly this time around.

Maybe the ideal way to view this film is immediately after watching the first one – if you can handle it. It might create a better sense of continuity. Besides, you’d never wait two years to read the second half of a book, right? B-

Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord. Email comments to