Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgard, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor
Written by: Gary Dauberman and (based on the novel) Stephen King
Running Time: 169 mins
Release date: 6th September 2019
Two years ago, It, the adaptation of the hefty Stephen King novel, was the surprise hit of the year. A tale of friends bonding together to take on a killer clown called Pennywise. It managed to mix a coming-of-age story with a creepy and often genuinely terrifying horror film. The movie turned out to be the first half of the novel, so anticipation for the second part was high. While it is good to have the Losers Club back on screen, I cannot feel a little disappointed.
Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise, the gang have gone their separate ways, leaving Derry, except one. When murders start again, Mike, the only one left, contacts his former friends who have all forgotten the events. Once they return, they realise that to destroy the clown for good is to perform a ritual involving items from their childhood, triggering memories long locked away.
The strength of the first film was that, unlike conventional horror films, it was far more than just a scare-fest. The friendships built out of being victims of bullies, who took on the biggest monster in the town. You cared about these kids, recognised the anxieties they suffer from, which made the horror much more shocking. This time, we get to meet the gang but as adults, all very successful in their own ways but without a memory of their childhood days until they return to Derry.
The film starts off shockingly, with a brutal attack that seems more like an attack at small-town Americana than part of the story (and it’s already causing arguments for its point in the film). This leads to the return of Pennywise and triggering Mike, the only member who never left, contacting the others. We see how successful they have all become. We then see the reaction from the phone call they each receive from Mike. Derry-bound they go where Mike, almost obsessively, has discovered an ancient ritual that could stop Pennywise.
The film then flip-flops between timeframes, as the adults, head off to find their childhood trinkets, cutting between the gang then and now. This middle section is the film’s major flaw. Having so many plot strands lead to various set pieces that, individually, work well. However, it does become a little repetitive, and so the impact of the horror lessens with each episode. It also softens your emotional response to the characters, and the sense of peril that loomed over Chapter One is sorely lacking here. This is where a little trimming could have worked to relieve it’s 169-minute running time.
Having said that, it’s still a handsome-looking piece, and there are moments when the jumps are there. It’s the impact of these scares that is missing. The casting is also one of the highpoints. Each of the adult versions of the children totally spot-on. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy lead the pack and do brilliant jobs. It is Bill Hader as wise-cracking Richie, who steals the film, bringing in some well needed comic relief. Hopefully, this will lead to bigger and better things for the comedy actor. Bill Skarsgard is just as creepy as Pennywise, managing, once again to create something different than produced by original Tim Curry.
It Chapter Two isn’t a terrible movie, and if it existed on its own, the disappointments wouldn’t be there. It Chapter One was such a masterclass in horror that no matter how hard you tried, it was going to be a tough act to follow. I’m sure it will be a box office smash, and fans will embrace it. I just don’t think it measures up to the first film and I so wanted it to.