The worst kept secret in Hollywood was finally revealed when Warner Brothers confirmed “It: Chapter Two” was set for release on September 6, 2019, nearly two years to the day “It: Chapter One” opened and became a box office sensation. The sequel was a no-brainer given the first movie’s popularity with audiences, but Warner Bros. played the waiting game before setting the sequel for 2019.
“Chapter One” is currently the highest grossing horror film ever in the U.S. with over $260 million at the domestic box office, which only puts a lot more pressure on the sequel to succeed. “Chapter Two” will pick up with the Losers’ Club as adults as they are forced to return to Derry to defeat Pennywise once and for all. Rumors are already swirling about potential casting choices and novel changes, and director Andy Muschietti has teased a darker vision for the next installment.
As “It” fans now prepare themselves for the two-year hiatus in between chapters, we look to “Chapter Two” and break down the 9 things the sequel needs to achieve if it wants to match the breakout success of the original.
1. Cast Mostly Unknowns
The record breaking success of “Chapter One” means the sequel has a much better chance at landing higher profile names for the adult versions of Bill, Beverly, Richie, Stan, Eddie, Mike, and Ben. While the producers will be tempted to cast A-listers (Muschietti has already said he’s interested in Jessica Chastain for Bev), “Part Two” will be much stronger with a cast of unknown or less recognizable faces. Jaeden Lieberher and Finn Wolfhard were arguably the biggest names in “Chapter One,” but they are hardly the most prolific young actors. If you’ve never seen “Stranger Things,” you probably have no idea who Wolfhard is.
The lack of stars made “Chapter One” feel believable and grounded, as if the horrors unfolding were happening to real children and not Hollywood’s new batch of rising stars. The franchise will lose this tone if “Part Two” features megastars like Chris Pratt or Amy Adams being terrorized. Bill’s movie star wife Audra is the only character where it would make sense to cast a big name actress, but even casting one Hollywood star opposite lesser names will tip the scale. It’s in the movie’s best interest to follow in “Chapter One’s” footsteps and avoid ubiquitous stars (now we can make our pitch for Joanna Garcia as older Bev).
2. Keep the Mythology Light
One of the best decisions “Chapter One” made was not getting entirely caught up in the specifics of It’s mythology. Monsters are much scarier when viewers know less about them, and just seeing It’s creature-like teeth emerge from Pennywise’s mouth was so terrifying that we didn’t need the character’s alien backstory for the image to be effective. “Chapter One” mostly avoided the mythology; all that was confirmed was that It returns every 27 years to prey upon the children of Derry, Maine.
If “Chapter One” didn’t concern itself too much with the history of It, then “Chapter Two” should do the same. The last thing we want is an expository dumping of information about It, from its origins in the Macroverse to its eternal adversary called “Turtle.” Perhaps if “Chapter One” began laying the groundwork for the mythology for in depth it would make sense for “Chapter Two” to explore it more, but that wasn’t the case and it’s not needed. Instead of diving into It’s mythology, “Part Two” would be wise to spend more time exploring Derry’s history and It’s legacy in the town.
3. Make the Child Killings Gruesome
The best scene in “Chapter One” is arguably the very first one. Georgie’s death at the hands of Pennywise is perfectly paced and leads to a shocking amputation that instantly defines the kind of gruesome horror Pennywise is capable of executing. Pennywise’s return in “Chapter Two” is also signified by the death of young ones as nine Derry children are brutally murdered. The deaths include a two year old being murdered and other kids being decapitated or torn apart. The sequel is going to need to raise the stakes significantly, and one easy way to do this is to show these murders in all their horrific and stomach-turning glory.
Pennywise’s debut in “Chapter Two” has to have a bigger impact than his debut in “Chapter One” so that the stakes feel infinitely bigger and the threat seems way more difficult to defeat. Characters in the book tell us what happened to the children, but the movie needs to show us if it wants to make a horrifying impact.
4. Don’t Lean Into 2017 Too Hard
Changing the time period of the novel was perhaps the first movie’s riskiest decision. King’s novel is set between 1984 and 1985 when the characters are adults and includes flashbacks to their younger years in 1957-1958. “Chapter One” followed the Losers’ Club as children but was set in the 1980s, which means “Chapter Two” will pick up with the characters as adults in the present day. This time change poses a tough challenge for the sequel, which won’t be able to rely on nostalgia for comedic effect (see Ben’s secret love for New Kids on the Block). Leaning into today’s pop culture would be an annoying choice because nothing in 2017 holds much sentimental value for the viewer (we can already see the producers working in an eye-rolling “Stranger Things” reference).
It would also be a mistake to cram the film with cellphones, computers, and other technological devises, especially in relation to defeating Pennywise. The characters in the novel were adults in the 1980s and had to once again rely on human connection to defeat It (and real face-to-face friendship is a big theme of the story), but a contemporary setting threatens this plot point. Oh, and the less said about Donald Trump the better; this is “It,” not “American Horror Story.”
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5. Develop Stan
Stan will be very important to the story in “Chapter Two.” When Mike informs the Losers’ Club that It has returned to Derry and they must make good on their blood oath to return and fight it, Stan’s PTSD over the events of his childhood lead him to commit suicide. It’s a shocking and heartbreaking moment, and it works because in the novel Stan is as well-developed as all the other children. The same can’t be said for the film, where Stan is the least interesting of the group and makes the quietest impression. Stan is not a fan favorite, and the way his character fit into “Chapter One” won’t allow his death in “Chapter Two” to feel as earth-shattering as it is need to. Stan’s death leaves the Losers’ Club without a member, which doesn’t bode well for defeating Pennywise a second time, but the moment needs to have an emotional impact to match how it affects the story.
“Chapter Two” has the chance to make this moment powerful by developing Stan a bit more before depicting his suicide, or by giving Stan’s fate in the novel to a fan favorite character in the film. The latter would be a controversial decision and could jeopardize other story threads, but it would be a bold choice. If a fan favorite like Eddie or Richie took their own lives at the start of “Part Two,” viewers would be absolutely heartbroken.
6. Keep the Special Effects Practical
“It” was at its scariest when practical effects were front and center. Pennywise’s entire makeup design was absolutely chilling to behold every time a balloon popped and revealed his face. The rotting leper was also a disgusting creation that felt grossly tangible because of its real effects. Less horrifying was the CGI-rendered painting lady and all of Pennywise’s shapeshifting transformations that were clearly VFX. “Chapter One” proved the terror of practical effects, and it’s something “Chapter Two” should lean into whole-heartedly. The more the horror looks and feels real, the scarier it becomes. A famous scene fans will be expecting is the moment when the group’s meal at a Chinese restaurant ends with fortune cookies busting open to reveal eyes and blood. Moments like these will only benefit from practical gore. Let’s hope Muschietti stays as practical as possible.
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7. Be Very Careful With How You Handle Bowers
What to do with Henry Bowers? In the novel, the violent bully gets framed for Pennywise’s murders and ends up locked in a mental hospital, only to escape as an adult and return to terrorize the Losers’ Club all over again (including stabbing Mike). The last we saw of Bowers in the movie was that he was pushed down the well by Mike, but the film very cautiously never showed his dead body. Bowers isn’t officially dead in the movie, which means he may or may not feature in “Part Two” just as he does in King’s novel. The problem is how cheap it might feel if Bowers suddenly appears after seemingly falling to his death. If characters can just come back from near death, the stakes of the movie are lessened.
“Chapter Two” either needs to find a reasonable way to bring Bowers back into the fold so he can fulfill his purpose in the novel or keep him out of the picture all together. Bowers’ story as an adult is important because he is groomed by Pennywise to kill (just as he was in “Chapter One” to slit his father’s throat), but if Bowers returning means a stretch in logic given where he ended up at the end of the first movie, then he should be removed entirely. The last thing we want to see is a third act twist where adult Bowers suddenly appears to cause trouble.
8. Don’t Let Comedy Get in the Way of Psychological Horror
“Horror, humor, and heart” were the three H’s the young cast used to describe “It” during the press tour, and fans will agree that the film’s humor was one of its strongest assets. Unfortunately, “Chapter Two” just can’t be effective if it’s just as funny as “Chapter One.” We’re not suggesting the sequel should be an entirely bleak affair, but the comedy needs to be reasonably toned down in favor of psychological horror as the adult characters are forced to confront the demon from their past.
Muschietti has already teased that Mike will be more disturbed in the movie than he is in the novel given the events of “Chapter One,” and this is the kind of character development that should inform all members of the Losers’ Club. Their time with Pennywise should still be haunting them in some way when we pick up with them in the present day, and that means not all of “Chapter Two” should be filled with laughs. Given the success of the first movie, it’ll be easy to try and mimic its strengths and go the comedy route once again, but humor no longer belongs in the story of the adults. There certainly should be moments of levity, but a tonal shift is required for “Chapter Two” to do justice to the story.
9. The Final Battle Needs to Be the Scariest Part of the Franchise
The low point of “Chapter One” might just be the climactic battle where Pennywise is defeated by the Losers’ Club (for now, at least). Muschietti directs the scene less from a horror movie perspective and more from an action filmmaking one. The camera goes handheld and the editing quickens in a way that feels more Jason Bourne-influenced than Stephen King. The climactic battle in “Part Two” is going to be a horrifying blood bath, and it needs to feel horrific and scary, not fueled by action-oritented thrills. The adrenaline of the sequence should be created by flat out fear; we need to be scared for the characters’ lives and mortified by the violence unfolding. Muschietti needs to listen to the criticism over the climax and improve on it if “Chapter Two” wants to end with the bang it needs.