IT : More Than Just A Horror Story
*WARNING, mild spoilers for IT and IT: Chapter 2*
Upon my first viewing of IT in the cinemas back in 2017, I thought that IT was a cool horror film filled with hilarious one-liners from the Losers. Though I’ve never found clowns particularly scary, I enjoyed the movie and was interested in seeing what IT : Chapter 2 would bring. Now I’d never read the novel at this point, because despite my love of horror, I’ve never really been into horror novels. So I had no idea what the second movie would bring. Then 2019 rolled around and I never got to see Chapter 2 in the cinemas. Finally, on Halloween 2020 I bought the film, and watched it with my family. By this point I’d forgotten a lot of the first film’s plot, so I required a lot of explaining. However I wasn’t prepared for how emotional and touching the story would be, as all I remembered from the first film were Richie’s jokes. IT : Chapter 2 is the first horror movie that has ever made me emotional, and I’ve ended up much more invested in the story and the characters than I had anticipated. I HAD to go back and marathon the two movies together, and I even asked for the novel for Christmas because I wanted to know more. Stephen King and the director Andy Muschietti created not only an exciting horror movie, but also a wonderful coming-of-age story with layers of meaning behind it.
Though the film’s mascot is a terrifying clown, IT’s horror lies much deeper than jump scares and gore. Pennywise represents so much; he represents his prey’s deepest fears, childhood trauma, and fear itself. The main reason myself, and many others found the movies so heart breaking is because Pennywise represents the horrible things people are going through in their every day lives. He represents abusive parents, homophobia, racism, lack of self worth, manipulation and so on. This is much harder to watch as an adult because it’s happening to children, who are already suffering at school and at home. IT : Chapter 2 really solidifies this, as we see the lasting effects this trauma has on them, even before they remember what happened.
Beverly and Eddie are shown to be stuck in the cycles of abuse they suffered from as children at the hands of their parents, Stanley can’t handle the thought of facing his fears again, and we learn that Richie is still hiding who he really is. Pennywise forces the Losers to face their worst fears, and they all forge unbreakable bonds because of this. But the sad part is that after all of that, they forget all about each other. And when they finally reunite, they realise just how much time they’d missed together, and how much of themselves they’d lost too. Chapter 2 is all about breaking cycles, as the adults of Derry had turned a blind eye to not only the horrors occurring in the sewers, but the horrors occurring behind the closed doors of their homes and in their children’s lives for years. The Losers are the first adults to fight back and to try and make their hometown safe for children again.
The bonds the Losers forge together are the life force of the story, reminding us all how it felt to be a child (minus the murder) and finding somewhere to belong. This includes having your first crush, and in Richie’s case; experiencing the confusing emotions that come with realising your sexuality. Each member of the Loser’s Club has their own unique dynamic with one another, with their own inside jokes and methods of comforting each other. Bill is the brave, determined one, Beverly is the comforting one that holds the group together, Ben is the sweet and intelligent one, Mike is the reliable and loyal one, Stanley is the quiet and methodical one, Richie is the sarcastic loudmouth and Eddie is the small anxious one. They all feel like outcasts, with nobody else looking out for them, which is why the Losers Club becomes their safe haven even whilst being terrorised by a clown. They become their own unique family that takes care of each other and feels safe around each other, finally feeling like they can be themselves for the first time in their lives.
Their friendships and group dynamics are very relatable and nostalgic; which is what makes their story so much more emotional. In IT: Chapter 2, Richie’s story arc was one of the most emotional; seeing how difficult it still was for him to accept his sexuality, and watching a child experiencing homophobia and struggling with his feelings. Upon watching Chapter 2, it completely changed my perception of his and Eddie’s friendship. Having spent years in school with boys who had similar personalities to Richie, I assumed he was just another annoying teenage boy when I watched the first movie. But after seeing who he really is in the second film, I realised how his jokes were attempts to hide his fear and get Eddie’s attention. Richie was actually very caring and just wanted to make his friends laugh. Especially Eddie, who he was always quick to comfort no matter how terrified he was himself. Their bond was extremely sweet to watch develop from childhood to adulthood, and it impacted me a lot.
I was honestly very surprised to see Richie’s sexuality play such a huge part in his story, since these things still aren’t explored a lot in hollywood blockbusters, let alone so realistically. I know a lot of people found the homophobia throughout the movie difficult to watch, which I completely understand, though IT is fundamentally a story about outsiders and what they have to deal with on a daily basis. Including the opening scene that features a brutal hate crime, which was actually based on a real event. I don’t find it easy to watch myself, but I don’t find racism or abuse easy to watch either. There is also an argument for the opening scene being foreshadowing for a later event, but the debate on homophobia being featured in every mainstream LGBTQ+ storyline is ongoing. I’d heard rumours at the time of Richie and/or Eddie being gay after the first movie was being released, with people pointing out Pennywise’s use of the upside down triangle when facing Eddie in the first film (and later Richie in the second film), which was originally a symbol that Nazi soldiers put on homosexuals in concentration camps during the war. However, as I have mentioned before, I have consumed lots of media that has featured gay subtext and queerbaiting, so I rarely get my hopes up, let alone for such a mainstream franchise.
I had completely forgotten about all of this by the time I watched Chapter 2, so I was really shocked, and it made me analyse Richie’s actions a lot more in the first film. There honestly aren't a lot of hints, but Richie’s constant teasing and constantly rushing to protect Eddie made a lot more sense upon seeing their relationship develop in the second movie. It also added a lot more meaning to the scene where the Losers make the blood oath, and Richie is holding Eddie’s cast hand, which says ‘LOVER’ scrawled on in sharpie.
Usually I don’t care much for a ‘happy’ ending in a horror story, but IT is the first horror story that has made me genuinely invested in the characters and care for their safety. Though IT doesn’t have the perfect happy ending by any means, I think that the ending was very beautiful, and left us with a beautiful message as we read Stanley’s letter to the rest of the Losers. We see them finally get to live their lives the way that they were meant to, and all still as close as they once were as children. Bill finally has closure, and is able to write a story that he knows the ending to, which strategically features a chapter from the original IT novel. We even get a message of encouragement about being brave enough to be yourself, as Richie finally embraces his sexuality.
The movie ends with a final flashback of the Loser’s Club, leaving us with an emotional goodbye after an admittedly long story about childhood and growing up. The ending was extremely poetic, and not at all what I expected or thought I would have wanted for a horror story, but I realise now that IT is just as much a coming-of-age story as it is a horror story. It’s only really something that Stephen King can pull off, and I have to admit that the IT franchise has quickly become one of my favourite movie franchises of all time.