The Horror Of IT Chapter Two Is In Unresolved Trauma

Published on September 9, 2019

Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers ahead for “IT Chapter 2”

“IT Chapter 2” hit theaters this weekend to deliver the final installment of the two-part remake of the classic Stephen King tale about friendship and bravery. The film was met with a less successful opening weekend than expected (despite having some of the best casting of any sequel, ever) as it did not surpass the opening weekend of its predecessor, though it still managed to rake in $91 million domestically and $185 million worldwide. The first part of the story, which hit theaters in 2017, raked in $123 million domestically and $189 million worldwide during its opening weekend. This is, however, unsurprising for a sequel.

“IT Chapter 2 opens where it left off, with the losers club promising to one another that they would reunite in Derry, Maine should Pennywise manifest ever again. Fast forward 27 years—like clockwork, according to the legend—and the homicidal clown is back again to terrorize the town. Its first victim this time around, however, is an adult, as a group of teenagers brutally beat a gay couple just outside of the Derry carnival, throwing one over the edge of a bridge where Pennywise scoops him up out of the river and eats him.

From there the film progresses in the same way that the original does. An older Mike Hanlon (played by Isaiah Mustafah) frantically calls the rest of the losers club to summon them back to Derry one by one. Starting with an older Bill (played by James McAvoy) who grew up to be a horror novelist turned screenwriter in Hollywood (sounds familiar). The rest of the losers club has grown up to become exactly what you would expect of them—save for Ben (Jay Ryan), who lost his childhood weight and became a millionaire architect. All of the losers agree to meet in Derry as soon as possible, but just after making the promise to go to Maine, Stanley (Andy Bean) kills himself in the bath tub, which Beverly sees through a nightmare just before getting the call from Mike about needing to go to Derry.

Once in Derry, the rest of the losers club spends some time reminiscing in a Chinese restaurant before the terror sinks in and horrifying images start showing up in the food. Mike, who has spent the last 27 years in Derry researching how to kill Pennywise once and for all, is the only one that seems to remember the fine details of his childhood. For everyone else, the unresolved traumas of their past have long since left their minds. To defeat Pennywise, though, they have to remember.

The Real Horror Of IT

Throughout much of the movie, the losers club spends their time in Derry reliving the traumas of their past in order to retrieve objects that will help them defeat Pennywise. These “artifacts” were key relics of their childhood—particularly throughout the summer of 1989 when Pennywise last terrorized the town of Derry—and will help them connect the past with the present.

For Beverly (Jessica Chastain), obtaining her relic involves visiting her childhood home, the apartment she shared with her abusive father, to remember all of the things she had forgotten from her dark past. Cycling down the list, each of the losers are forced to face their childhood traumas once again in order to move past them. Once they’ve obtained each of their respective totems from the past, they burn them in a ceremonial ritual that Mike learned about from a local native tribe.

What makes IT stand out from other horror films is not that it’s particularly terrifying. In fact, the film is less of a horror film than it is a drama. Each story portrayed in the film speaks to an overarching theme of growth, wherein each character must face the trauma their past in order to grow beyond it. For Ritchie (Bill Hader) this involves confronting his sexuality and remembering the bullies that pushed him to hide it for much of his life. For Ben, it means recalling the self-hatred he had over his appearance throughout his childhood and his fear of dying alone. Apparitions and images of gore aside, the real terror in each of the losers’ stories involves confronting the depths of their childhood trauma—alone.

It is in this that “IT Chapter Two” finds its footing as a great story, though its lore and supernatural universe remains its weakest link. Beyond the surface level entertainment as a horror film, the story stands out as one about friendship and growth, demonstrating that healing—from a shared trauma in particular—manifests through a sense of belonging. For the Losers Club, this rings true not only in their childhood—where they found strength in numbers to combat their bullies—but in their adult lives, where they feel a sense of comfort together that they never quite had when they were alone.

Perhaps what makes Stephen King stand out as a writer is his ability to craft a character with depth, rather than in his ability to craft a horror story filled with terror. IT, as a franchise, is not inherently terrifying (though you would have to be pretty sick in the mind to make a character step on a dirty hypodermic needle, in my opinion), but its story is a well-crafted reminder of the importance of friendship and how the traumas of childhood take a lifetime to recover from.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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