By Alexis Williams
**Warning- Spoilers Ahead**
Stephen King’s “It” series is arguably one of the most compelling horror series. What separates the “It” series from not only other Stephen King stories, but other horror franchises overall, is the fact that “It’s” scariest moments do not derive from its signature killer clown. Rather, they come from the realities of human nature, and through the exploitation of trauma. Arguably, “It” does this best through the eyes of Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain as adult Beverly, Sophia Lillis as young Beverly).
“It Chapter 2” takes place twenty-seven years after its 2017 predecessor. The members of the self-dubbed “Loser’s Club” are now all in their thirties and forties, and all but one have managed to get as far away from Derry as possible. However, it seems no one has managed to get as far away from Derry as Beverly. It’s not made exactly clear what she does in her adult life. She lives in a brownstone in New York City, with her husband. A large, painted portrait of the pair hangs in the foyer of their house. It’s at this point of the movie where we are introduced to a seemingly very important detail about what Beverly has done between the two films: she’s managed to find herself in an abusive marriage.
Anyone familiar with the first movie (or the book from which it is sourced) understands why this is particularly important. Beverly was raised by an abusive father, that It takes great pleasure in exploiting. Despite the fact that It is best known for appearing to unsuspecting children as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), It’s harshest dangers come in the form of the exploitation of victim’s greatest fears. Which, for Beverly’s sake, always ties back to her past of abuse.
“We know when we leave the theater that there are no monstrous clowns in the storm drain. We know the boogeyman isn’t real. But domestic and child abuse is.”
What makes Beverly’s backstory so compelling, is the touch of reality that it brings to an otherwise somewhat outlandish story. Over the course of the two movies, It appears in various ways that almost seem too on the nose for a horror film. It appears to Eddie (James Ransone as adult Eddie, and Jack Dylan Grazer as the younger Eddie) in both films as a disease-ridden boogeyman. In the first movie, It appears to Richie (Finn Wolfhard as young Richie, Bill Hader as adult Richie) as an entire room full of creepy clown memorabilia.
These scenes inevitably warrant jump scares and hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck inducing moments, that we would expect from a horror film. But in the case of Beverly, Bill (James McAvoy as adult Bill, Jaeden Martell as young Bill), Ben (Jay Ryan as adult Ben, Jeremy Ray Taylor as young Ben), and adult Richie to an extent, It’s true horror comes from its ability to manipulate real trauma from more relatable events. And therein lies the real heart of this story.
We know when we leave the theater that there are no monstrous clowns in the storm drain. We know the boogeyman isn’t real. But domestic and child abuse is. Homophobia, as explored through Richie’s struggle with his secret feelings for Eddie, and through It’s first attack in the first few minutes of the movie, is. Trauma and guilt, particularly in regards to the death of a loved one, as explored through Bill, is. And that is what makes It so scary.
Arguably, “It Chapter 2” hurts Beverly’s character development a bit by doing a better job in working through the male Loser’s stories. Bill, whose guilt over the death of his younger brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) serves as the impetus for the story, gets to have a moment where he looks It’s apparition of his younger self in the eye and tell him that it was not his fault that Georgie was killed, giving himself the closure that he’s sought for twenty-seven years in the process.
Despite all the ridicule that he endured as a child, Ben becomes a classic case of “losers inheriting the earth,” as he not only becomes successful, wealthy, and physically fit, but he also wins the girl (in this case, Beverly) in the end, despite the fact that the first movie suggested that she had feelings for Bill. Richie gets to have a moment of catharsis following Eddie’s death, by visiting the bridge that he carved their initials into when he was younger.
“After sitting through collectively 304 minutes, between the two films, of Beverly struggling to overcome such a horrific past, it almost seems a disservice to not allow her to have her big moment.”
But what does Beverly get? One of the last shots of the film depicts her and Ben, sailing away together on a yacht. To an extent, it’s wonderful to see her in a healthy relationship with someone who truly loves her. But it’s not quite as satisfying as seeing Bill literally shoot his demons away. By no means should anyone be defined by their past, especially if that past is one of abuse.
And a movie does not inherently do a female character wrong by having a love story be her resolution. But after sitting through collectively 304 minutes, between the two films, of Beverly struggling to overcome such a horrific past, it almost seems a disservice to not allow her to have her big moment of conquering It in the way that the other Losers get to, especially given that she is the only major female character. It seems that in the second movie at least, she serves more as a reward for Ben, who has patiently waited in the shadows for her to get over her crush on Bill.
While the movie certainly has some great moments for Beverly (not the least of which being a scene where she nearly drowns in blood, a callback to a major moment in the first movie), “It Chapter 2” bites off a bit more than it can chew in some places. Which, in its defense, is not hard to do when working with a 1,138 page novel as a source material. However, it would have been nice to see it not falter so much to the detriment of Beverly.