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“You know what they say about Derry? No one who dies here ever really dies.” Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema gave audiences an early morning jolt with the release of the first trailer for It: Chapter Two. Based on the acclaimed horror novel by Stephen King, It: Chapter Two picks up from the first film 27 years later with The Losers’ Club all grown up. But with age comes new terrors as the demonic clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) plots his revenge against Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), and Stanley (Andy Bean).
It became a phenomenon when it was released in 2017, enticing even non-horror fans to subject themselves to all the terror director Andy Muschietti had to offer. The film went on to become the highest grossing horror movie of all time, with $700.3 million worldwide. It’s no surprise then that despite only a two-year gap between films that New Line is treating Chapter Two like an event, the grand finale usually only reserved for trilogies or cinematic universes. While the source material has been widely read, Chapter Two, like the first film, appears to offer significant deviations that will keep even King’s constant readers on their toes and off-balance, dreading that they’ll lose the footing of familiarity and float too.
The trailer opens with an extended clip, not unlike the full trailer for the first film which showed audiences Georgie’s full encounter with Pennywise in the storm drain. We find the adult Beverly revisiting her childhood home, despite its lack of fond memories. Fans of King’s novel will be familiar with Mrs. Kersh, the seemingly friendly old lady who ends up being just another guise of It in one of the book’s most haunting chapters. But the film presents an interesting alteration in that Kersh is Pennywise’s daughter, at least if the creepy photos on her wall are to be believed. In the novel, It’s origins are nebulous. He took the form of a clown most frequently, Mr. Bob Gray or Pennywise, but his true form is an ancient eldritch entity from another universe who landed in the town that would become Derry by way of an asteroid and first awoke in 1715. After the first film’s release Skarsgard discussed filming a deleted scene that showed Pennywise, pre-clown guise, in the 1600s and suggested that the scene may be revisited in the sequel. The trailer later shows us a glimpse of Pennywise tearing away his clown makeup, which may be part of that flashback. Given how the first film reinterpreted the climax and the Deadlights, it wouldn’t be surprising if Pennywise isn’t a cosmic entity of the giant crab-spider variety as he was in King’s novel or the 1990 miniseries. But what is It exactly? Was he once a man who worked for the circus as Kersh claims, or was that simply another disguise? As exciting as it will be to see what the future holds in store for The Losers’ Club, it’s equally thrilling to imagine the film delving into Pennywise’s past.
After teasing us with a horrifying encounter with Mrs. Kersh, the trailer gives us brief glimpses of the adult Losers’ Club, interspersing those brief moments with their childhood counterparts. The trailer convincingly plays with the idea of nostalgia, one for a film that’s not old enough to have earned the term, but one that works nonetheless because of how invested the first film made audiences in these characters. There may have only been a two year gap for us, but even in its briefness the last 30 seconds of the trailer does make it seem as though it really has been ages since we last saw these characters. While the decision to break away from the format of King’s novel, which opens with the adult characters and flashes back to their youth, Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman appear to be channeling a similar use of time that draws us in to these characters and makes us feel as though we have been on a decades long journey with them. The format and medium have certainly shifted from page to screen, but it’s hard to argue that the trailer for It: Chapter Two doesn’t stir some feeling in us that ventures beyond fear.
In both it’s tease at the origins of Pennywise and the reunion of the Losers’ Club, there is a sense of finality offered in the trailer for It: Chapter Two. While so many horror franchises, even those based on books, are often built around the long game, and returning to villains and entities until they loose their power to scare, or to characters whose journeys seem roundabout, this looks different. Chapter Two is promising to put all its cards on the table with a self-contained story that promises these are characters we’ll continue to care about and this is a clown we’ll continue to fear. With the novelty of a two film epic, It is angling to retain a formidable hold on our nightmares.
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