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Watch: It Chapter Two returns with an eerie new trailer

The new trailer presents subtle psychological horror as the adult Losers face Pennywise — and their own demons.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

The newly arrived second trailer for It Chapter Two delivers really creepy and unsettling imagery to great success, without giving us much new information.

Where the first trailer emphasized a nightmarish return home, the second one emphasizes Bill Skarsgard’s unsettling grin as Pennywise, the evil shape-shifting clown who haunts Stephen King’s deceptively bucolic town of Derry, Maine. It also treats us to lingering glimpses of the group of Derry misfits we met in the first film, 2017’s It Chapter One, known as the Losers Club. Twenty-seven years have passed since the events of the first movie; now all adults, the Losers have reunited in order to battle Pennywise one last time — and the trailer makes it clear that this fight will be a deeply psychological one.

Despite its all-star cast, which boasts Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader, the highly anticipated follow-up to Chapter One has one big element working against it: It’s the “grownup half” of a story that most people associate with childhood and the creepy edges of nostalgia — the elements that King’s voluminous ’80s horror novel so perfectly blends into utter terror.

Aided by a sterling ensemble cast of teen actors, director Andy Muschietti imbued the 2017 film with tons of atmosphere and a narrative that drew its scares as much from the idea of real-life evils as from the supernatural ones present in Derry. The movie worked because you believed Pennywise, played by Skarsgard with unholy relish, was somehow tied to the evils of small-town life — that he represented the rotting heart of America’s drive for social conformity and penchant for repressing its worst secrets. When the Losers confronted him, they were also confronting a loss of childhood innocence, as well as the lie behind the myth that small towns like Derry are ever truly safe.

But King’s epic novel doesn’t stop there, so It: Chapter Two covers the rest of King’s plot — in which the Losers have to face down Pennywise in adulthood. When they were children, the evils the Losers faced were embedded within the town; now, in order to defeat Pennywise, the adults will all have to individually overcome their own personal demons.

This is a much more internalized part of King’s narrative, and it could make for much less compelling drama — just look at the 1990 miniseries adaptation, which worked brilliantly when it focused on the children but felt hokey and forced when it shifted to the adults.

Of course, the trailers can give us a big clue about how the new movie will approach this topic. It’s trailers have been fascinatingly opaque in the past; the very first trailer for It: Chapter One misleadingly used editing to emphasize a different kind of horror language than the one Muschietti was using. The second trailer for the first film, by contrast, was far more settled and effective, and it turned out to be much more in line with the film fans saw.

The second trailer for Chapter Two feels similar in tone to Chapter One’s second trailer. Instead of emphasizing jump scares, there’s a more gradual sense of all-encompassing fear — it really conveys the idea that Pennywise is an element that pervades the town of Derry. The film’s adult cast, particularly Hader as a grown-up Richie and Isaiah Mustafa as a grown-up Mike, project fear in every scene.

Apart from one mostly unscary moment involving McAvoy’s Bill trapped in a circus maze of mirrors, the new trailer doesn’t do much more than display the cast’s fear alongside glimpses of the ever-demented Pennywise. But it works eerily well, because the entire point of It: Chapter Two is that the work the Losers Club now has to do is all within their own heads — which are being perpetually manipulated and worked upon by Pennywise.

The trailer concludes with a shudder-inducing voiceover in which Pennywise, sounding absolutely salacious, tells the Losers that he’s craved for them to return to Derry. It’s fantastic. I thought that by this point in the franchise, trailers wouldn’t really be able to cull additional scares from the specter of Pennywise himself. Instead, simply by turning all the drama inward, Chapter Two’s second trailer ramps up the scares.

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