Why It Chapter Two’s Runtime Might Be Good for Horror Movies

Running at almost three hours might seem excessive, but it could be a sign of great things for the horror genre

Director Andy Muschietti has revealed that It Chapter Two, the second part of his adaptation of Stephen King’s tome IT, is going to be two hours and 45 minutes. That’s long for a film in general but super-long for a horror film.

As reported by Digital Spy, the director spoke about the movie’s length, explaining that it was originally 4 hours and that no one who’s seen it has any complaints.

“A movie is very different when you’re writing the script and you’re building a story compared to what the final product is. At the beginning, when you’re writing and building the beats of the story, everything that you put in there seems very essential to the story. However, when you have the movie finally edited and it’s four hours long, you realize that some of the events and some of the beats can be easily lifted but the essence of the story remains intact. 

“You cannot deliver a four-hour movie because people will start to feel uncomfortable – no matter what they see – but we ended up having a movie that is two hours and 45 minutes, and the pacing is very good. Nobody who’s seen the movie has had any complaint.”

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Though audiences have grown used to comic book movies, Oscar-worthy dramas, and Tarantino films stretching out runtimes, horror movies are often reliably brief for viewers looking for short, sharp, shocks, and snappy pacing. Though the novel IT is quite the door stop at 1,138 pages, the 1990 mini-series adaptation stretched over two parts clocked in at 192 minutes in total. Muschietti’s movies watched back-to-back will run at 300 minutes. That’s five hours.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing. 

It has already somewhat broken the mold when it comes to horror releases. The film was marketed like a blockbuster, with early event trailer reveals, cast and crew doing the high-profile chat show circuit, early screenings for critics and IMAX screenings for audiences. And despite its very modest $35 million budget (not bad for a horror, tiny for a blockbuster), chapter one went on to take more than $700 million worldwide – making it the highest-grossing horror movie of all time. It’s the closest that pure horror (that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than horror) has come to the mainstream, tapping cleverly into older audiences who loved the book or the miniseries and younger viewers who love Stranger Things by updating its part one setting to the 1980s and casting Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard in one of the key roles.

read more: It Chapter Two Review

Though horror fans sometimes enjoy being on the fringes, loving subversive, controversial, challenging, and hard to find gems, we should rejoice that our genre is being taken seriously – and not just as arthouse curios and underground shockers, but as massive multiplex entertainment for all. 

An extended runtime isn’t a necessary part of that but nor is it something to be rejected – in fact, it’s more of an indication that It Chapter Two, and Andy Muschietti, are being given the respect and freedom you’d expect from any other blockbuster, as well as an expectation of box-office power to seat it up there with the big guns.

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Look at the top five highest-grossing movies of all time, for example:

Avengers: Endgame – 181 mins

Avatar – 162 mins

Titanic – 194 mins

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 136 min

Avengers: Infinity War – 149 min

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It Chapter Two isn’t such an anomaly. Add in Gone with the Wind – which is the highest-grossing movie of all time if you adjust for inflation and runs at a whopping 238 mins – and It Chapter Two isn’t in bad company when it comes to bum numbing.

Then there’s the fact that this is an adaptation of a much-loved book. Yes, it’s obviously possible to pare the story down to two shorter movies, but that could mean missing out on some of what makes the book so great – either not allowing time to really explore the relationships that are a key appeal of the novel, or missing out segments altogether. If you want to make this the definitive adaptation, the material needs room to breathe. This extended runtime could also indicate ample time has been given to flashbacks, fleshing out further what went on with the young Losers’ Club. Though it’s a story set in two eras, the films don’t need to be as clearly delineated, especially since the story of the adult Losers is arguably less compelling than the events with the kids.

At a time when a cinema trip is extremely expensive, audiences rightly expect a bigger bang for their buck, a reason to watch something on the big screen rather than just waiting till it hits home release (traditionally the home of horror, a genre that bloomed in the VHS era). Big stars (Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader), high production values, and, yes, maybe a longer run time all help to give this movie blockbuster status.

While Disney is absolutely killing it in the comic book and sci-fi spheres, with MarvelStar Wars, and the Avatar sequels ticking along in the background, Warner seems to be doing something very smart with its horror titles. By treating It as a proper tentpole, and allowing James Wan to develop his Conjuring expanded universe in a model reminiscent of Marvel (and ok, the quality has dropped off recently, but the theory is still sound), the studio is taking horror as seriously as any other genre. And making horror mainstream does not equate to dumbing it down – no one’s accusing Marvel of dumbing down and the success of the MCU’s family-friendly fare has only facilitated studios taking a punt on edgier, more adult material like Logan, Deadpool, and the upcoming Joker

So while some of us might not especially relish worrying about needing a wee while we’re being harried by a dancing clown, what this potentially represents is bigger than our bladders. Horror for all, everywhere, all the time, commanding the biggest budgets and the finest talent, winning awards, dominating multiplexes, and being taken just as seriously as any other genre, no less! Surely that’s worth a couple of hours of crossed legs.

It Chapter Two hits theaters on Sept. 6. 

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