IT: Chapter Two has been one of the most anticipated horror films for just over two years now, with fans and even non-fans of the genre desperate to see the terrifying Pennywise dance his ways onto our screens and bring our worst nightmares to life. The first film came with much precipitation regarding how Andy Muschietti would bring to life Stephen King’s well-defined and well-loved storytelling to screen and how anyone would be able to match Tim Curry’s performance of Pennywise from the IT miniseries. We were not left disappointed with the first film, it was structured, easy to watch and most importantly, it generated fear amongst the audience. With this in mind, it seemed inevitable that Muschietti’s part two of the film would deliver on everything it did in the first. Chapter Two presents exactly what the audience expects to see, terrifies us in moments in calm and builds on character development, yet doesn’t quite manage to make the same impression the second time around.
Memories have passed and years have faded, but even after 27 years the horror of IT can never truly be forgotten… Mike Hanlon never left the town of Derry after the events that transpired as a young boy, but his friends that went through the experience with him managed to escape the town and it’s ever looming oppressive atmosphere and continuous devastation. However, when children’s bodies start washing up in the sewers with bite marks, limbs missing and awash with blood, Mike realises that the monster they thought they killed all those years ago has reawakened and only they can stop it from claiming yet more young lives. Mike begins contacting his childhood friends, who have mysteriously forgotten all about Derry, that is until they hear the words from Mike’s mouth and the atrocious moments that happened to them come flooding back like a tsunami of dread and fear. Without hesitation the group come together in Derry and begin figuring out how they first conquered IT and what they must do this time in order to banish the demon forever.
Andy Muschietti’s first and second parts are delivered just as the book intended for them to be made, divided into two significant chapters that explore the fears of the children and the fears of the adults after they’ve forgotten the horrific experience they went through. For those who are fans of Stephen King’s book, it comes as pleasant news that Chapter Two follows the book just as closely as the first does, only omitting some aspects that aren’t pivotal to the storytelling and mythos of the creature they face. The translation from book to screen is almost uncanny; for those who have digested the words, it’s like watching your imagination come to life on-screen. Scenes are graphic and detailed with the most important intricacies that were included in the book; watching the heartbreaking and gut-wrenching homophobic attack of Adrian and Don by some of the thugs that reside in Derry had the same shocking reaction watching it on screen as it did during the first time it was read in the book. Both Chapter One and Chapter Two are films that even Stephen King himself can be proud of as adaptations.
Something that is noticeably incredible is the casting for this film; with an exceptionally strong lead of characters in the first film, and a strong understanding of their personalities, fears and innermost secrets, it was vital that the adult cast could perfectly conceptualise this. James McAvoy is Bill, Jessica Chastain as Beverly, Jay Ryan as Ben, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike, James Ransone as Eddie, Andy Bean as Stanley and finally Bill Hader as Richie – who all look ridiculously alike to the child actors from the first. Even though McAvoy and Chastain are excellent in the starring roles in this film, it’s really Hader that takes centre stage and brings the comedic relief to the audience just when we need it. Throughout the film there are tense moments filled with anxiety and unease, but Hader offsets this with his comedy, which has two effects; firstly it calms the audience down from a heightened state of agitation, but secondly it lulls the audience into a false sense of security, only to let our guards down and become exposed to the horrors of Pennywise once more.
There are white-knuckle moments littered throughout, however the first half has more of an agonising sense of dread, constantly waiting for Pennywise to make his appearance as one form or another and fill the screen with gore, slaughter and that hypnotic laugh. What has always made IT such a figure of horror is how he obtains the ability to dramatically change his persona at the burst of a balloon – the lonely and playful clown that just wants a friend to keep him company very quickly transgresses into a salivating predator that wants nothing more than to taste the innocent flesh of children. Towards the end of the film Pennywise quickly becomes an overwhelming monster that can turn anything into a sight of terror, but it removes some of the creepiness from him and makes it feel almost too over the top. What holds together the silliness at times is Bill Skarsgard’s performance; there has never been a truer depiction of something so horrific as how Skarsgard applies himself to this role.
Unfortunately, IT Chapter Two will lose some of its audience members with a runtime of 2 hours 50 minutes. Understandably there is a plethora of information to include in the film, however the runtime does begin to drag around the 2 hour mark which makes some of the later scenes less enjoyable. It also feels that some aspects of the film were rushed whereas others were continued for too long; the unequal pacing of the film also adds to the feeling of length as some of the attention-grabbing scenes seem to pass too quickly and then the audience’s attention is lost. The other deflation that the film suffers from is not feeling quite as scary as the first – perhaps we have grown more accustomed to IT and the ways it tries to consume us through nightmares but it doesn’t have as many spine-tingling depictions as the first film.
This is a film that takes one of the most recognised horror stories and fluently translates the verses onto the screen. Muschietti has once again delivered audiences with a worthy vision of the IT mythos and how that story should look when made real and tangible. Although not as strong as first film, IT Chapter Two will devour you through fear, nostalgia and emotional connection. It’s more than just a horror film, it’s a film about friendship, conquering personal demons and doing what’s best for humanity.
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Andy Bean, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgård, Chosen Jacobs, Finn Wolfhard, Isaiah Mustafa, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jaeden Martell, James Mcavoy, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jessica Chastain, Sophia Lillis, Stephen King, Wyatt Oleff