In the two years since the premiere of It, the film broke records, became hailed as one of the best Stephen King adaptations and an instant classic not only among horror fans. Director Andy Muschietti became a household name, and so did the cast. Pressure and hype was on It: Chapter Two as it came into cinemas, with audiences wondering, whether it will be able to capture the same mix of scares and relatable characters that made the first one such a hit.
It has been 27 years since the Losers Club promised to themselves, that if It ever comes back, they will come back too. In that time, they spread across the world, each living their own life, forgetting what has happened. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one who chose to stay in Derry, spent the past decades studying and finding ways to kill It. Bill (James McAvoy) went on to become a successful author, who’s having his latest book filmed; just one of a few meta-jokes that are scattered across the movie. Richie (Bill Hader) used his talent for foul-mouthed comedy to sell out shows as a stand-up comic. Hypochondriac Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst with a wife very similar in both tone and appearance to his mother, while Ben (Jay Ryan) became way more muscular as well as an architect. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is living with her aggressive, abusive husband who eerily echoes her father. All are called together by Mike, who’s sure that It is back and that this time, they have to kill Pennywise for good.
The adult versions of the Losers Club are the heart of the movie. Each one of them feels like a grown-up kid we watched in theatres two years ago. This time around, their chemistry is so much better right from the beginning. Losers reuniting in a Chinese restaurant and catching up is one of the best moments in It: Chapter Two. Beverly is the standout character again, with Richie getting surprising depth as well as the funniest jokes. Bill and the rest aren’t far behind, each one of them just a tiny bit better than when they were kids. These adults manage to make the Losers Club way more fun and memorable than they were in the first part.
Just like its predecessor, It: Chapter Two walks a line between horror and a drama, with some humour added for good measure. The film is focused in tone and has considerably less jokes, nearly all of which are coming from the fantastic Bill Hader as Richie. His comedic timing is just as great as his dramatic performance. Whereas It (2017) leaned more into horror, Chapter Two is a character drama with some scary sequences. This works for the film, as its goal is not to scare you, but to take the viewer on a journey with these characters.
Horror fans don’t need to worry, as the film still packs quite a few scares. Most of them are clever, even if predictable, jump-scares where It takes on multiple forms. None of these iterations are quite as scary as Pennywise, partly due to the over reliance on CGI. The films opts for visual effects way too often, even in cases when it could have used practical ones for a more believable result. Despite the large number of momentary scares, It: Chapter Two fails to craft a memorable frightening set-piece, in the vein of the opening scene from It. There is one or two that attempt to do just that, both of which featuring Pennywise rather than any other form of It.
Bill Skarsgård proves once again that It is his franchise, thanks to the fantastic portrayal of Pennywise. Without a doubt, he gives the standout performance in the film, despite the very limited screen time. Due to It: Chapter Two focusing on personal horrors of each character, Pennywise himself doesn’t get nearly enough shine on the screen. He kills every scene that he’s in and makes for some of the films most memorable sequences. Skarsgård finds the perfect mix between childishly funny and scary, portraying him both as a calculated intelligent killer as well as an animalistic beast controlled by basic instincts.
It: Chapter Two boasts a runtime of nearly 3 hours, in which it has to introduce us to ‘new’ characters, develop them, scare the audience as well as end the story. It is no easy task and yet Andy Muschietti together with the screenwriter Gary Dauberman somehow pulled it off. The film is paced rather well, as it keeps focused purely on the main storyline and our heroes for the majority of the runtime. There is one wholly unnecessary subplot that basically stopped the film every time the focus was placed on it. It could have been taken out and the film wouldn’t lose anything.
Similar to the first chapter, the climax takes place underneath Derry as the Losers Club takes on Pennywise and all his forms in hopes to destroy It. This sequence resembles its counterpart in the first chapter, only this one’s worse in every way. Losers spend most of this battle fighting with individual horrors and they only come together for the very end, which feels unsatisfying and unearned. An element of this was present in the final fight at the end of It, when Pennywise partially transformed into what scared each kid the most. In this one, It only takes one form, which despite a fantastic output by Bill Skarsgård doesn’t feel scary. On the contrary, some parts seemed downright laughable, which is something a story like It should have never achieved.
The climax relies too heavily on CG, which the film tries to mask by flickering lights and shaky camera. Checco Varese (Pacific Rim) is the cinematographer this time around, bringing a style that is different while still feeling similar. The film retains a familiar visual aesthetic coupled with some beautiful transitions, but only in the calm moments. Unless it’s Pennywise, the scares too often rely on the aforementioned flickering lights and shaky cam, or just few too many cuts instead of the unbroken smooth shots that made the first film look so great. The score for the film was once again handled by Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049) who’s genuinely chilling work makes up most of the atmosphere. In a way, it is more of the same, but it works greatly to the films advantage.
It: Chapter Two is a massive sequel that amplifies nearly everything from the first part, whether good or bad. The criminally underused Bill Skarsgård shines in an iconic role of Pennywise and the Losers make their characters feel new, yet familiar. Chapter Two lacks in memorable scares, but more than makes up for it with a great cast and a surprisingly touching end to the story about overcoming one’s fear, whatever shape it may be.