It Chapter Two Review

Thankfully, It floats

by Kumari Tilakawardane
Movies & TV Review

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It Chapter Two Review

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Bill Hader shines in the epic near 3-hour follow-up to 2017’s Stephen King smash-hit clown terror remake.

In a year in which clowns seem to be taking cinema’s centre stage, literature’s most famous joker returns. We always knew this was coming – the second half of the latest filmic adaptation of Stephen King’s iconic novel It was inevitable; both because of the ending of the first film, and because of the way the horror master’s book was structured.

The 2017 film was a verifiable smash-hit, a critical darling adored by audiences that became the highest-grossing horror film of all time. This film tries its best to recapture that creepy magic, but it just falls short.

First off, it’s long. Very long. Almost three hours long. That’s long for a drama, let alone a horror sequel about a maniacal clown who (spoiler alert) eats children and dwells in sewers. Then there’s that first-film-magic that blessed director Andy Muschetti’s first effort two years ago, and the unabashed horror of seeing Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise for the first time.

The first thing that strikes you about this film is that it’s superbly casted

The first thing that strikes you about this film is that it’s superbly cast. Like, this might be some of the best casting Hollywood has seen for quite some time – a fact that Muschetti emphasises in the film by slowly merging the faces of a character’s ‘present-day’ self with his childhood visage from Chapter 1.

The film puts us back in Derry, Maine, 27 years after the bone-chilling events of the first film. You’ll recall that The Losers’ Club swore a blood oath to return to the town should Pennywise rear his painted head again. And, sure enough, from the very first (brutal) scene, we see that the evil clown is indeed darkening Derry’s doors again. And so, those Losers who’ve left town duly flock back to confront their foe.

Ben (Jay Ryan) is now an architect and a fair bit slimmer, Eddie (James Ransome) is a cautious-as-ever Risk Analyst, Bill (James McAvoy) has overcome his stutter to find his voice as a writer, Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is still put-upon – though now by her husband rather than an abusive father – and Richie (Bill Hader) has put his smart mouth to use as a stand-up comic. The gang is summoned back by Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who still lives in town.
It Chapter Two
As was the case in the first film, the very best moments come when we get to sit in as The Losers’ Club interact with each other – the group’s post-adulthood debrief over Chinese is a real highlight. These moments are quite often frustratingly interrupted by the film’s determination to send each character off in differing directions for individual quests – one of the ways the plotline meanders a tad too much, before eventually resulting in basically a remix of the ways The Losers’ Club fought Pennywise in the first film.

Eventually though, the plot does manage to thicken, as each of the Losers is forced to confront their own personal demons, with varying degrees of watchability. Chastain’s performance as Bev is excellent, showcased in the utterly nightmarish apartment sequence and an unforgettable bathroom scene. Hader is, without a doubt, the best thing about the film; his performance is one of implied wit, sparkling charisma and charming smugness that buoys the entire film, particularly when it tends towards the slow or mundane.

The film is often scary and pleasingly watchable, despite its daunting length, with a handful of great cameos, a selection of classic film call-outs and some real classic tropes thrown in for good measure. While the film doesn’t really pack the tenterhooks punch of its predecessor, it is thoroughly creepy throughout, thanks to a clever integration of realism with the surreal from Muschetti. The narrative is, at times, rather too sprawling to be a taut thriller, but there are enough genuinely horrifying moments to keep the thing together, made all the more larger-than-life courtesy of IMAX, which adds some further terrifying immersion to the experience.

It Chapter Two is carried by the exceptional Hader, and contains enough sublime surrealism, forays into the occult and jump scares to almost justify it’s over-long runtime

The film’s exploration of nostalgia, personal demons and the traumas of childhood are excellently explored, and make for some of the most interesting fodder, away from Pennywise’s appearances on screen. Speaking of the clown, he’s just as petrifying as ever, though it’s a little anti-climactic that we don’t really explore what he is… is he a manifestation of the Losers’ inner fears? Is he a demon from some other realm? Perhaps all will be revealed in the second sequel, which is clearly hinted at by the end of the film.

And indeed, this might be the scariest thing of all about It Chapter Two; it’s got it’s scares and ghouls and powerful performances, but it lacks the suspense and compelling nature of its predecessor… and yet it’s still being mined by the powers-that-be to churn out more multiplex money in the future.

A good enough follow up to the knock-out that was the first film, It Chapter Two is carried by the exceptional Hader, and contains enough sublime surrealism, forays into the occult and jump scares to almost justify it’s over-long runtime. It doesn’t justify a third film, but it should satisfy the appetite for the demon clown left after last time. But, based on the emphatic semaphoring being done by the film’s close, it’s clear that, unlike the citizens of Derry, cinemagoers won’t have to wait another 27 years to catch Pennywise again.

Scores

Verdict

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8
8
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