A freakout in a Chinese restaurant that finds the table covered in copious black sludge and visually ingenious creatures like an insect with a babydoll head and an eyeball with propulsive tentacles that reminded me of a goth Occy from The Snorks, evaporates when an employee barges into a dining room where the Losers Club hallucinate. There’s no mess left, not a drop of sludge. See? It was all make-believe. Later, when another character gets vomited on by a corpse in a similar hallucination that takes place in the basement of a pharmacy, he’s still covered in crud when he gets home. Pennywise is omniscient, and yet when he has the Losers Club cornered in a cave during the movie’s climax, they’re able to slip out of a chamber without him realizing it. This could be a subtle sign that he’s losing power, or yet another indication that no one quite knows exactly what they’re doing. There’s no good reason for me to suspect anything but the latter.

Of course, horror movies have a long history of playing fast and loose with coherence, and expecting excellence from It Chapter Two is a more foolish idea than anything contained in this extremely dumb movie. What makes the laziness intolerable here is the conviction behind the movie of importance and meaning. For indication, you need to look no further than the bloated runtime (before this movie, it never would have been conceivable that a fantasy-slasher with b-movie DNA would ever dare stretching toward the three-hour mark), but there’s also the aforementioned dead-end philosophizing. Somberness, tender framing, and cinematography with a small-town grandeur straight out of the ’90s all frequently clash with the rather hammy acting across the board; when the filmmaking instead enables the melodrama via slow zooms and Dutch angles, tone becomes treacle. (Don’t believe what you may have read about Bill Hader’s tour de force here. He’s merely competent in an incompetent movie. He’s much better in Barry.)

The current social imperative for art to comment on and offer solutions for society’s ills is gladly taken up by It Chapter Two—or at least its director devised some talking points for the press cycle that suggest as much. Muschietti told AFP that Donald Trump “does exactly what the clown does, you know?... The clown is trying to divide the Losers all the time, to turn them against them(selves) and make them weaker. That’s how he conquers, he tries to conquer them and destroy them.” Donald Trump, you see, is like a mean clown—wouldn’t you like to watch three hours of oblique musing on that? Muschietti also said that an early scene that depicts a gay-bashing was useful for making a movie that is “connected to the times that we live in.” The scene concludes with the half-alive gay victim (played by director Xavier Dolan) being consumed by Pennywise, which is obviously not at all connected to the times we live in, but I can’t think of a move that’s more 2019 than attempting to argue the social consciousness and import of a scene that ends with a demon clown devouring the limp gay man in his arms. Like the red balloons that portend Pennywise’s presence, Muschietti and his movie are full of hot air.

It is currently playing in theaters as of today, September 6.