The sequel feels like a high school reunion comedy rather than a horror movie, with a barely utilized Pennywise
It's weird to make a sequel to It, one of the most fun horror movies of the last few years, and barely using the iconic monster Pennywise in it at all.
There's also a problem with humor in horror movies. Horror movies have a lot in common with comedies and they can blend well, but too much comedy makes a movie a little bit too self aware. It's hard to be really scared in a movie where the characters are essentially saying "this is like being in a horror movie" all the time. It's tonally different when little kids are goofing, because their sense of humor is nervous and messy and mostly not funny. When you bring in a comedian like Bill Hader and he's cracking jokes they land better and undercut the tension. It's not that he's bad, actually Bill Hader is a pretty good actor. But his presence is going to change the tone of the film.
It: Chapter 2 was a big disappointment. It's a good movie, at least compared to a lot of other horror films that come out, but the first film was so good that it's hard to to be anything but let down by this one. There's too much comedy, not enough horror, the narrative is scattered, and the performances are inconsistent. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are obviously great, but then on the other end the guy playing a grown up version of Ben Hascom is a charmless lump of attractive that doesn't have a tenth of the charisma his younger counterpart has.
The oddest thing to me about the film is a lack of Pennywise. The most horrifying scenes of the original film featured Pennywise on the hunt or messing with his victims, but his presence is less felt in this film. We see him on the hunt for other victims – especially in the genuinely terrifying opening scene where Pennywise consumes the victim of a vicious hate crime – but aside from a couple of scenes where he goes after fresh prey he's not in the movie very much at all.
The entire thing feels more like a video game than anything else. There's a part in the story where the characters have to retrieve a token to empower the Ritual of Chüd, which would then pin down the Dead Lights at Pennywise's core, which lead to a final boss fight with a Spider-Pennywise, which ends with them finding his weak spot.
My girlfriend, who is not a horror fan and indulges me with great patience, pointed out something that felt accurate to me, which is that the film felt more like a high school reunion comedy than a horror film. It's just too funny and too focused on the characters reuniting and falling out and finding each other again. James McAvoy, as the grown-up Bill Denborough, seems like he's off on another movie while the rest argue over and over about whether or not they're going to stay.
I feel like the It films have a very different vibe based on whether or not you're familiar with the source material. I have read the book and have a pretty general knowledge of Stephen King's mythology and where Pennywise fits into it. When I saw the original film, I liked that they jettisoned a lot of the details from the book that I found iffy or corny, but this film utilized a lot of ideas that I didn't feel worked. The Ritual of Chüd doesn't really do anything and there's a whole Native American mythology that feels really out of date in 2019, and the return of lunatic Henry Bowers is more comedic than threatening.
I had really high hopes for this film. The first movie is such a strong character driven horror film with great scares and beautifully built tension. Some of my favorite scares were part of It and I really wanted the story to end on the same strong note it started. But this one was a let down. It just didn't click for me.