Warning: Major spoilers for IT Chapter Two ahead.
IT Chapter Two doesn't have the same type of scares compared to the first film, but that actually works in the horror movie's favor. The movie serves as the follow-up to Andy Muschietti's 2017 box-office hit, IT, and is once again based on Stephen King's popular 1986 horror novel of the same name.
There were very high hopes for Muschietti's take on the horrifying tale, and the first movie delivered. Bill Skarsgård's version of Pennywise was absolutely terrifying, and there were a number of memorable scares such as Georgie's death scene, the slideshow incident, and the entire sequence in the house on Neibolt Street. It had more to offer than just horror, but it nonetheless succeeded in sufficiently scaring viewers.
IT set the tone for Pennywise's existence in the Derry universe, but IT Chapter Two changes the pace. The Losers' Club gets older and the story starts to shift to the psychological type of terror that plagues the town. The scares get weaker, which has been a major point of criticism among reviews for IT Chapter 2. However, that doesn't deter the film from its overall goal. If anything, the lessening of scares makes IT Chapter Two even stronger.
IT Chapter Two Isn't Scary
IT Chapter Two takes all of the risks of a modern horror film, but it lacks an overarching scare factor. There are a few small jump-scares such as the firefly under the bleacher scene or Mrs. Kersh's attack on Beverly, but most of the Pennywise-driven scenes lose the power of terror seen in the first film. 2017's IT had the opportunity to introduce the world to a reimagination of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The entity's torture tactics were unknown so the movie had the ability to play on the audience's suspense. Considering Pennywise is a more understood figure by the sequel, the second film's scares lose some appeal.
It also doesn't help that IT Chapter Two relies heavily on CGI rather than the raw portrayal of IT's Pennywise form. The marketing for the sequel focuses so much on Pennywise and terrifying clowns but that form is hardly present in the installment. Audiences clearly can't get enough Pennywise, but the entity spends too much time in other disguises. Maybe this is because the audience isn't viewing the sequel from the lens of a child, which was the case with IT; kids are no longer the primary focus so the terror is not being presented from a young viewpoint.
If anything, many of the scenes fit into the definition of unsettling or disturbing rather than "scary." IT Chapter Two opens with a violent scene featuring a gay man, Adrian Mellon, being beaten and thrown from a bridge by a group of homophobes. The fact that this scene takes place closer to modern-day is its own category of scary. There are also a number of other disturbing scenes including Stan's suicide, Beverly's flashbacks with her abusive father, and Eddie being stabbed by Henry in the face. This time around, there seems to be more a mental torment by IT rather than just physical violence.
Why IT Chapter Two Isn't Trying To Scare Viewers
From the opening act of the sequel, it's obvious that IT Chapter Two is a more ambitious movie. The film tries to reach beyond a typical horror movie, especially one with a long history. By becoming something grander, IT Chapter Two goes outside of horror and touches on other genres such as drama and comedy. The movie trades away some of the scares to effectively show the impact that Derry has on the Losers' Club in their adult lives. Many of the Losers try to forget their past, but the memories rush back when they return to town.
Once the Losers' Club is reunited, the movie begins to display the mental toll they all took from their first run-in with Pennywise. Each of the Losers is shown to cope differently but they all struggle from the same events. It takes a bit of time for Bill, Beverly, Ben, Eddie, and Richie to fully go all-in with Mike's plan to take down IT. There is a bit of soul-searching and memory unearthing before the group can find the courage. It Chapter 2 wants to explore overcoming childhood trauma, which warrants a deeper focus than having a clown providing jump scares. These scenes strongly play like a drama but of course with Eddie and Richie around, there is an ample amount of comedic dialogue. Richie became a comedian after leaving Derry so it's understandable why he still uses comedy as a way to hide the psychological terror.
Why IT Chapter Two's Lack Of Scares Is Actually A Good Thing
IT Chapter Two's lack of scares isn't necessarily a bad thing because it gives the sequel the opportunity to focus on its large ensemble cast. The sequel is tasked with having to re-introduce the main set of characters since the narrative takes place three decades after the first movie. More is at stake now that the audience is familiar with the younger characters and their history. IT Chapter Two is largely character-driven, which is important as a method to show how far the Losers have come and how much they've changed during their adult lives. Some have argued that the movie suffers because IT Chapter 2 is nearly three hours long, but that is necessary in allowing each character to get a proper arc.
By breaking free of horror conventions, the movie side-steps cheap scares and gratuitous gore to dive deeper into the themes of King's IT novel. The movie also manages to use the Ritual of Chüd failure at the end of IT Chapter 2 to show the power of belief and friendship. If it isn't for the Losers' Club coming together, Derry would have been cursed until the end of time. Being together gives the Losers a chance to look back at their past and the opportunity to take back control of their future. They all accept who they are and will always have the Losers' Club as support. These notions might have been lost if IT Chapter Two's main goal was to terrify viewers with hollow scares.