What IT: Chapter Two Teaches Us About Defeating the Devil
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers from IT: Chapter Two. Read at your own risk.
IT: Chapter Two finds seven childhood friends reuniting after 27 years to face off against an enemy that has returned to terrorize their hometown. The film, while offering up plenty of hilarious moments, takes viewers on a rollercoaster of memory, disguises, and revelatory truths. As someone who generally shies away from horror films, I found the defeat of Pennywise supremely satisfying. (Spoilers ahead.)
If memory serves
Once Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) becomes convinced that Pennywise has returned to Derry, Maine (due to a couple of gruesome murders), he calls up the six friends he made a blood oath with almost three decades prior. Richie, Eddie, Stanley, Beverly, Ben, and Bill have moved on from the past, and once they return to Derry, it becomes evident that they don’t remember much of what happened during that blood-drenched summer.
Mike convinces them that the first step in defeating their enemy is for them to remember their past experiences. Rich and Eddie argue against this. After Pennywise tortures them psychologically at the Losers Club reunion dinner, the two want to leave the past in the past and return to their current lives. They even go back to their hotel to pack. However, Beverly reveals that she has been having nightmares of each member of the Losers Club dying. The group realizes that they only have one more chance to defeat It. If they don’t, they will all eventually die in gruesome ways.
Each Loser sets off on a mission to uncover something (an “artifact”) from the past – a token of their prior battle with the monstrous clown.
It’s natural to want to block out negative memories and bad experiences – especially when those experiences involve personal failures. But memory is a powerful weapon in our battle with the force of evil in the world. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2:11). As each of the Losers take a trip down memory lane, they relive past experiences. Repeatedly, each of them nearly succumbs to Pennywise’s lies about who they are and how they failed in the past. And, repeatedly, each of the now grown-up Losers realizes that they are only being manipulated by their enemy into believing that they are still bound by the failures of their youth. “It’s not real. It’s not real,” they pant in desperation. And then they break free from the mind games – learning from the past, but not living in it.
By returning to their past experiences, the Losers are reminded of their weaknesses and blind spots. This knowledge arms them for future combat with Pennywise. Likewise with believers, by being aware of the temptations that easily beset us, we can brace for the blows of the enemy.
He comes in many forms
The plot of IT: Chapter Two is driven by Mike Hanlon’s secretive plan to destroy Pennywise. Mike believes that Pennywise is just a physical manifestation of an extra-dimensional evil force that fell from the sky hundreds of years ago – information he found out from a Native American tribe during his research on the history of Derry. In a drug-induced vision scene, Mike and Bill witness the “Deadlights” fall comet-like from the sky and strike the earth. The scene instantly reminded me of Isaiah’s words: “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!” Or, as Jesus put it: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
In 2017’s IT movie, the Losers focused on defeating Pennywise the Dancing Clown. However, Pennywise is only a tangible representation of an evil spiritual power. That spiritual power took on a different form for the Native Americans. The clown is only the form in which it appears for the people of Derry. Mike believes that the same ritual that freed the Native Americans from It’s terror can be used again to eradicate Pennywise and permanently destroy the influence of the Deadlights.
Like the Deadlights, the Wicked One in our world is adept at shapeshifting. Satan is a master of disguise who often “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). However, our method for defeating Satan is always the same. We are not fighting a person, a place, or a set of circumstances. We are fighting a “roaring lion who walks about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8)—even if he appears as a cuddly Pomeranian.
He’s just a clown
In the climactic battle, Pennywise grows to an enormous size, morphing into a massive spider-clown with giant shears at the ends of its appendages. It chases the Losers around an underground cavern, making lite work of Mike’s elaborate ritual aimed at destroying It and the Deadlights for good. After Pennywise stabs Eddie in the chest, the Losers despair of ever defeating their enemy. In a last-ditch effort, they attempt to trick the clown into following them into a small space so that he will be forced to reduce in size, giving them a better chance at killing it. Pennywise, however, thwarts that plan.
All is lost…until the Losers realize, “There’s more than one way to make someone small.” They turn the tables on Pennywise and use his own tricks against him. They tell the monstrous circus freak: “You’re a headless boy. You’re a weak old woman. You’re just a clown. You’re just a clown!”
Pennywise’s biggest weakness turns out to be the very tool he uses to terrorize his victims. He twists the truth to keep people under his power, but he can’t handle the truth about himself. Similarly, Satan deceives us into believing that our faults, failures, and weaknesses are the be-all and end-all of our existence. He wants to keep us trapped and tormented by fear so we can never cast him out and be made perfect in the Father’s love (1 John 4:18). If we believe Satan’s lies about ourselves—and Satan’s lies about himself—we will never break free from fear, torment, trauma, depression, anxiety, and sin. Like Rich and Eddie at the beginning of the film, we will believe that there’s no hope and that we are better off not attempting to fight the evil that has taken hold in our lives and in our environments.
Pennywise doesn’t know how to handle the Losers telling him the truth about himself. He turns out to be just as vulnerable as any child. As the verbal assault continues, he stumbles backward, falls, and shrinks in size till he’s no larger than a toddler. With every second, the Losers grow bolder. They realize that they’ve had this power all along. They just didn’t know how to use it.
Like Christ in the wilderness, we defeat Satan with the power of words—God’s words, the living Word that abides in our hearts and minds. And what does the Word tell us about our enemy?
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome [demonic spirits], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Revelation 12:9)
“I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” (Revelation 20:1-3)
Satan knows Scripture—probably better than we do; he’s had a lot more time to study it, and he was there when a lot of it was being recorded. But he can only enslave us to fear if we don’t know—and believe—what Scripture says about him. We must realize that our enemy is just a clown. He’s a loser. He’s already been defeated. He casts a large shadow, but he’s small and shriveled. He only has the power that we give to him.