James McAvoy

IT Chapter Two

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It’s been twenty-seven years since the Losers’ Club thought they defeated Pennywise the clown. Now, he’s back and taking children again. The friends are called back to reunite in Derry to try to stop It once again. As they remember their past, the old friends will have to face the monster head-on to break the cycle and save the children of Derry… and themselves.

The second half of Stephen King’s legendary novel is yet again brought to life in IT Chapter Two by screenwriter Gary Dauberman (The Nun, Annabelle Comes Home) and director Andy Muschietti (IT [2017], Mama). The film begins right where the previous film left off, with the Losers’ Club together in the field right after defeating Pennywise for the first time. After seeing a sign from Pennywise, the only person in the group to have stayed in Derry, Mike, calls his friends and reminds them of the promise they made all those years ago. From there the film weaves back and forth between the past and the present as each member of the group is called and brought home, then as their long-forgotten childhood memories finally come back to them. The way the plot is integrated with past and present is done perfectly in a way that still allows the film to naturally flow and move forward.

Dauberman and Muschietti do a fantastic job of including the important scenes and aspects of the source material, while still giving audiences something new. It allows the filmmakers to capture the spirit and feel of the book, even if it is not an exact adaptation. In several scenes, fans of the book will recognize what is happening. Yet there are still many exciting new things that did not come from King’s novel. Some of the changes were entire scenes, while others were more subtle, but impactful changes in the characters. One specific aspect of the novel I know many people were curious to see in the film is the “ritual of Chud.” Without giving away too many details, they do reference the ritual and have it in the film, but it might not be quite what fans of the novel expect. The climax of the film is thrilling, frightening, and heartbreaking. It pays homage to King’s work, but changes things up in order to give fans something unexpected and new.

Considering the IT Chapter Two has an almost three hour run time, somehow the film still felt like it went by very quickly. This is great because it means that, despite the long run time and everything they are able to include, the film is exciting and intriguing enough to keep the audience interested. Yet it also almost feels like many aspects of the film were simply brushed over instead of giving them the more in-depth look they deserved. Considering the length of the source material and how much the filmmakers were able to include in the film, I still applaud this cinematic achievement.

Fans of the first film were likely blown away by the kids’ performances. The adults in IT Chapter Two are no different. Of course, everyone knew James McAvoy (Split, Dark Phoenix) and Jessica Chastain (Mama, Molly’s Game) as adult Bill and Bev would be phenomenal. Jay Ryan (Beauty and the Beast, Terra Nova), who plays adult Ben, is one of the least known actors in the Losers’ Club. What makes his performance so great is how much he is able to convey more than words can with just a look, even when the camera is focused on other characters. James Ransone (Insidious, Generation Kill) is perfect casting as adult Eddie and comes across as the same person as the child we saw in the first film. One of the most surprising performances comes from Isaiah Mustafa (Chuck, Shadowhunters) as adult Mike. He is unrecognizeable as the “Old Spice guy” in this role. Not only does his character get more spotlight than his younger counterpart in the first film, but Mustafa is clearly up to the task and shines in the role. All of these actors are fantastic, but Bill Hader (Trainwreck, Barry) as adult Richie will be the one audiences remember most. Hader is absolutely hilarious, adding some great laugh out loud moments in the middle of the most tense moments. Yet what makes his performance so amazing is the emotional depth he conveys beyond the humor on the surface. Last, but not least, it is important to mention Bill Skarsgård (Castle Rock, IT [2017]) as Pennywise the clown. Just like his performance in the first film, Skarsgård manages to play what is likely the most terrifying clown in movie history.

Between practical effects, CGI, sets, and Easter eggs, IT Chapter Two has many stunning visual elements. As with the first film, the many terrifying creatures and characters IT appears as are a fantastic combination of practical effects and CGI enhancement. The two modes combine seamlessly to create some of the most shocking, disgusting, and frightening imagery. The filmmakers utilize familiar sets from the first film, such as the barrens and the house on Niebolt Street, but also incorporate gorgeous new ones. Some of the most memorable sets are the elegant old inn and the place deep underground where the final showdown takes place. The film also utilizes some really fascinating transitions. These transitions allow the filmmakers to maneuver from the past to the present and back again in unique, beautiful ways.

One of the most intriguing visual aspects of IT Chapter Two is the many Easter eggs hidden throughout. Some of these are characters in the film with small cameos, including Muschietti himself and the actor who played young Ben in the 1990 IT miniseries, Brandon Crane, and one cameo I will leave as a surprise. Other Easter eggs are references to the 1990 IT and other popular films from the 80’s. One especially memorable moment is a creature that is a combination of practical and CGI effects that appears to be an Easter egg or homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing.

IT Chapter Two is a thrilling and heart-felt conclusion to the story of our favorite losers that captures the feel of King’s novel while still giving us something exciting and new. Muschietti and Dauberman clearly know how to tell a compelling story that has a strong emotional core, amazing sets and effects, tons of scares, and even more laughs. They also honor King’s work by creating this cultural phenomenon of a film for horror fans and non-horror fans alike to adore. Every single actor embodies the characters they play in a way that reminds us of the children from the first film. And, of course, Skarsgård still brings the terror with his unique and terrifying portrayal of Pennywise. Purists who want an exact adaptation of the book or fans who are devoted to the miniseries may not be thrilled by the film, but this film is undoubtedly one of the horror highlights of 2019.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Split

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Three teenage girls are kidnapped and held captive by a man. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary man. He has 23 distinct personalities living within his mind. A few of those personalities have taken over and have devised a plan. They want to use the young girls in order to bring out a 24th personality known only as The Beast. The girls must either find a way to escape or try to convince one of the personalities to help them before it’s too late.

In the past there have been some pretty great films with characters who have dissociative identity disorder. A couple of them have even been in the horror genre. Split will go down as one of the top films featuring someone with multiple personalities. There are many reasons Split is a standout film for me. A large part of this is the way the main character, Kevin, was written. I appreciated that they emphasized that, while there are evil personalities within Kevin, many of them are good. It is similar to looking at a group of people in a room; some of them will be good and some of them will have a dark side. It is almost a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario where the actions of one personality cannot be blamed on another. I also love that the film explained how Kevin gained his personalities and that each of them came into being for different reasons depending on Kevin’s needs. By having one of the main characters in the film be Kevin’s psychologist the audience gets a more in-depth look into the inner workings of his mind.

The film also did an excellent job of having unique characters in each of the girls. While all of them are important in their own way, one of them is very important to the story. Casey is the dark and mysterious loner of the group. She is more observant than the other girls and uses whatever knowledge she can gain to survive. Learning about Casey and her past alongside Kevin’s added a very interesting juxtaposition. We as the audience get to see how both characters went through rather traumatic childhoods. While they are both emotionally, mentally, and even physically damaged from this trauma, it is interesting to see how they both coped with things in vastly different ways.

All five of the leads in Split did a tremendous job. James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) gave one of the best performances I have ever seen from him as Kevin and all his many other personalities. What made McAvoy’s performances so great was that you could clearly tell which personality he was at all times. Not only did he change his voice to fit each personality, but he even changed his body language. He simply blew me away. As always, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan) was also amazing as Casey. Taylor-Joy has made a name for herself in the horror world, and Split was no different. She expertly portrayed Casey as a survivor. Casey will use what she has learned from her sorted past to get through any obstacle that comes her way. McAvoy and Taylor-Joy’s moments together on screen made for some chilling scenes.

M. Night Shyamalan is known for having amazing twists in his films. Something that he has done more recently in The Visit and Split is add humor to his films. Split is a very gritty, intense, and sometimes even frightening film. Interspersed throughout all that are a lot of very humorous parts. In a film like this, having humor can be a risky decision. Ultimately I thought having times where the audience can laugh not only added some relief between scenes of high tension, but also made the film have a bit more of a realistic flare. If you are dealing with someone who has multiple personalities, some being 9 years old or the opposite sex of the body, it is only natural that humorous things will happen.

While overall I loved the film, there is one thing that keeps bothering me. I will be as vague as possible since going into too much detail will spoil some things. There is one scene at the end of the film. The scene lasts maybe 2 minutes and it is the last thing you see. This one scene managed to ruin the film a bit for me. While I can see why some people will be thrilled by it, I am not one of those people. Others will simply have no idea what the significance of those last two minutes are. The scene turned this film into something completely different than you would have expected by watching the first hour and 55 minutes. It is something new for Shyamalan, and it definitely leaves room for him to possibly do his first sequel. Yet I simply can’t get on board with how he ended the film.

Split is not only an edge of your seat film, but it is also a film that shows the many interesting facets of the human brain. If nothing else this film is worth seeing just to watch James McAvoy playing numerous characters. There are definitely more things to love about Split than hate. Personally I wish the film had ended without the addition of that last scene. For those of you who plan on seeing Split, I have one very vague piece of advice for you. Be sure that you are familiar with all of Shyamalan’s previous films.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10