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Read this before you see It Chapter Two

With It Chapter Two, director Andy Muschietti delivers his much-anticipated sequel to the massively successful It. Together the two films will make up a complete adaptation of one of Stephen King's most popular and acclaimed novels, and ever since the first trailer for Chapter Two was released, fans have grown increasingly anxious to see what happens when the Losers Clubs returns to battle Pennywise one more time.

Because Chapter Two is a sequel, we obviously know some of what to expect. We've met Pennywise before, after all. There are a lot of details you might not know about yet, though, particularly when it comes to the expanded cast assembled for the sequel. You also might not know or remember exactly how the second film is even possible, particularly if you've never read King's massive novel. We're here to help. Whether you're hoping to learn about the film for the first time or you're just looking for a handy refresher guide, read this before you see It Chapter Two, in theaters September 6, 2019.

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All grown up

At the end of It, Beverly Marsh tells the rest of the Losers Club that she's had a vision of them, all grown up, battling It again. The kids all cut their hands and swear a blood oath to each other that, should the need arise, they'll all return to face It again if it returns.

It Chapter Two sees that blood oath realized, as the creature commonly known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) does indeed resurface after 27 years. When It returns, the Losers Club is scattered across the United States, its members leading very different lives. Bill Denbrough, the group's leader, has become a bestselling suspense novelist married to a famous actress. Ben Hanscom has lost all the weight from his childhood and is a successful architect living in Nebraska. Richie Tozier has turned his smart mouth and knack for impressions into a career as a DJ in Los Angeles. Eddie Kaspbrak runs a limousine company in New York City and is married to a woman very much like his domineering mother. Stanley Uris is a partner at an accounting firm in Atlanta. Beverly Marsh, who left Derry for Portland at the end of the first film, is a successful fashion designer living in Chicago, married to an abusive husband who repeats the cycle of violence she learned from her father as a child.

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The one who stayed

Though most of the Losers Club scattered, one member stays behind: Mike Hanlon, the orphan boy whose family's history is deeply tied into the violence and hatred spurred on by Pennywise. In King's novel, it is revealed that the other members of the Losers Club were able to achieve tremendous success as adults, each shining in their chosen field, in part because of the shared supernatural bond they developed in coming together to battle It as children. Because Mike stayed in Derry, where Its supernatural influence acts as a kind of suppressant, he sacrificed his own potential.

Instead, Mike becomes the historian of the group, and of It. In King's novel he keeps a detailed journal filled with research about what It is and the various times It has struck throughout Derry's history, while also developing various theories as to how It works. When Its feeding cycle starts again, Mike is the one who reaches out to the other members of the Losers Club, reminding them of the oath they took and asking them to come back and help. It's a life that takes a toll.

"My idea of Mike in the second movie is quite darker from the book," Muschietti explained. "I want to make his character the one pivotal character who brings them all together, but staying in Derry took a toll with him. I want him to be a junkie actually. A librarian junkie. When the second movie starts, he's a wreck."

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Lost memories

The entity known as It has a number of powers, the most obvious of which are Its ability to change shape, sprout horrific, child-eating teeth, and sense and feed on fear. Those are only the flashiest of a great many abilities, though. Some of Its supernatural gifts are much more subtle and insidious, and that includes Its apparent ability to disguise itself and hide in plain sight in the town of Derry. As both the first film and King's novel establish, Derry is a place plagued by violence, disappearances, and mysterious deaths, and yet people continue to live there, and the national media doesn't ever seem to descend on the town to report on these strange events. That's because It has the supernatural gift of making people seemingly forget just how terrifying things are, and that carries over to the Losers Club as they move away from the town and carry out their lives as adults.

In King's novel, the adult members of the Losers Club return to Derry after hearing from Mike because they made a blood oath to return, but they don't necessarily remember exactly why they're going back, or what they're about to fight. Their memories of that frightening summer are faded, in part because It doesn't want them to remember how they won, and they have to revisit landmarks of their childhood to be reminded of why they're back and what they have to do, something the first trailer for the film puts on full display.

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The origins of Pennywise

In King's original novel, It is a kind of extradimensional entity that arrives on Earth centuries before the main story. It then sets up a den in what is now Derry, where it enters a continuous cycle of feeding and hibernating and gets its supernatural hooks into the town right from the beginning so it can control the level of awareness the humans around it have at any given time. When the Losers Club confront It, both as children and as adults, they are given glimpses of this extradimensional power, and in the final confrontation they are even shown a version of Its true form (the giant spider made famous by the 1990 miniseries).

Muschietti's first It film doesn't dig too deeply into this, only hinting at Pennywise's deeper power when Beverly Marsh is shown the "deadlights" down Its throat, but the director has long teased that this won't be the case in Chapter Two.

"I also wanted to leave something for the second half, so I didn't want to get in trouble with that — going into the macroverse or that transdimensional stuff — and keep it grounded, from the point of view of the kids," he said. "There's another movie to expand into that."

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An infamous scene

In the novel, Its awakening after hibernation periods is often associated with acts of violence by Derry townspeople. In the novel's present day (the 1980s when it was written, but the 2010s in the film adaptation), the event that seems to draw It back out is a hate crime during Derry's annual carnival. Three young men attack a gay man named Adrian Mellon, culminating in throwing him off a bridge. It's then that the attackers witness the return of Pennywise, who decides to dine on Adrian, creating the illusion that the men murdered Mellon.

The scene, one of the most disturbing in King's novel, was not included in the 1990 miniseries adaptation, but Pennywise's appearance is frequently associated with hate in all its forms in the novel, including the fire at the Black Spot, a local black nightclub, which was set by white supremacists in the 1930s. The homophobic hate crime is therefore an important part of Its supernatural influence, and screenwriter Gary Dauberman has confirmed that it will be a part of Chapter Two.

"It is the first attack in present-day Derry and sets the stage for what Derry has become," he said. "It is the influence of Pennywise even while he is hibernating, and it's pure evil what happens to Adrian. These bullies working through Pennywise was important for us to show."

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The two Losers Clubs

Because the whole crux of Chapter Two is the Losers Club reuniting in Derry 27 years after the first film, Muschietti and company had to find adult actors who could embody the fully realized characters played by the child actors from the first film. Fancasting for the adult Losers Club began online even before the first film was released, and in the summer of 2018 the past and present versions of the Losers Club were also assembled in Toronto to get to know each other and do a table read of the film's script.

James McAvoy will play adult Bill Denbrough (played by Jaeden Martell, formerly Jaeden Lieberher, in the original), while Jessica Chastain will play Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Bill Hader will play Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Jay Ryan will play Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), James Ransone will play Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), Isaiah Mustafa will play Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), and Andy Bean will play Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff). According to Grazer, the adult members of the Losers Club got into character synchronicity with their younger counterparts with an unusual yet effective technique.

"When I first got to Toronto for the table read, we went out to lunch, all of us, and the acting coach from the original It, the one we shot in 2017, came up to us and was like, 'I have an idea: you guys should do like a speed dating thing and just talk to your adult version,'" he recalled.

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New allies and new enemies

Since It Chapter Two is a sequel, it will of course expand the world of the original film, and since the film centers on the original characters all grown up, that will include a variety of new faces filling various roles in their lives. Bill Skarsgård will of course return to play Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the most prominent form of It, but the film will also feature a frightening new form for the character: Mrs. Kersh (Joan Gregson), a seemingly sweet elderly woman who lives in Beverly's old apartment and is prominently featured in the teaser sequence from the film's first trailer.

Other key characters arriving for the sequel include Adrian Mellon, a young man who meets Pennywise in one of the book's most frightening scenes, played by Xavier Dolan; Jess Weixler as Bill's wife, the actress Audra Phillips; and Will Beinbrink as Beverly's abusive husband Tom Rogan, whose violent streak embroils him in Pennywise's plans.

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Searching through the past

King's novel is massive in both page count and story scope, and unlike the first film, it opts to tell the story of the Losers Club with liberal use of time hops. Much of the novel's first part features the characters getting the call that they have to return to Derry, and then remembering their childhood and the summer of Pennywise's reign of terror. The first film made no use of this technique at all, but according to Muschietti, the second film will make liberal use of jumping backwards and forwards in time in what he's called a "dialogue between the two timelines." Much of this will be achieved through allowing each character to relive parts of their past in order to relearn what they need to do to beat Pennywise.

"They have to retrieve those memories from the summer of 1989, and that's how we jump back to 1989," he said. "The keys to defeating Pennywise are left in the past, and as adults, they don't remember."

Because of this "dialogue" between the past and the present, the original Losers Club cast will get a healthy portion of screentime through flashbacks.

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Prepare for more darkness

Though its protagonists are children, and it often leans heavily on the humor that exists between members of the Losers Club, the first It is a dark movie featuring everything from a child murder in the first 10 minutes to a trip into the sewers to battle a monster by the end. It's funny in places, yes, but certainly nothing you'd ever call anything but a horror film. Well, brace yourselves, because according to writer Gary Dauberman, Chapter Two takes this even further.

"I think it's darker in a lot of ways than the first one," he said. "The two movies feel like a complete whole to me."

One reason for this darkness, according to Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, is the villain's new mindset. He wasn't killed by the Losers in their last battle, but he was wounded to the point that he actually felt fear for the first time in his long life, and that's going to make him even scarier.

"His last line, 'Fear,' is him experiencing it for the first time, and he's sort of shocked and perplexed and surprised. Like, what is this? That leads to a shift in the evil character — like a cornered animal, fear only makes him more dangerous," he said. "It fuels hatred and anger towards the kids, who will be adults in this one, so I think there might be an even more vicious Pennywise."

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Prepare for blood... lots of blood

The first It recreated a number of key moments from King's novel, including a famous sequence in which Beverly Marsh is tormented by Pennywise in her bathroom. This results in a geyser of blood shooting out of the sink that her father can't see but is quite visible to her and the other members of the Losers Club, who clean every inch of the bathroom in an effort to get rid of it. It's a very bloody scene, but apparently Chapter Two is set to top it.

"I'm gonna say something and I think I'm gonna be in trouble but I'm gonna do it," Jessica Chastain said. "It might be a spoiler, but in the movie there's a scene that someone said on set that it's the most blood that's ever been in a horror film — in a scene."

We don't yet know the context of the scene, but the first Chapter Two trailer featured Beverly swimming up through what seemed to be a literal room full of blood, so Chastain's claim might turn out to be true.