In 1990, Tim Curry terrified the world with his iconic portrayal of Pennywise the clown. The two-part miniseries of It has its faults however Curry’s performance helped cement its cult status. Talk of a big screen remake was whispered for years but when the project finally gained traction it suffered from production issues to the point Stephen King suggested it may not happen. With two huge changes, including the replacement of the director and lead villain, the movie was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. Director Andrés Muschietti was praised for his vision while Bill Skarsgård’s take on Pennywise was terrifying and unique. As It was only half the story, thankfully its success at the box office meant a sequel was greenlit. With so much left to say, It Chapter Two promised to be bigger, scarier and more ambitious than its predecessor. Did it succeed?
Twenty seven years have passed since the Losers’ Club defeated Pennywise. Now adults, most of them have left Derry to lead successful lives. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) was the only person to remain in Derry, dedicating his life to understanding what It actually was in case it resurfaced. When a young man is slaughtered, Mike knows who is really responsible. He calls on his old friends to come back to Derry and finish It off once and for all. Unlike Mike, their memories aren’t as clear as his and when they do start to remember, some have doubts that they’ll be able to defeat Pennywise who is looking forward to reuniting with the old friends it has missed so dearly.
Muschietti wastes no time in the opening scene. The brutality of the violence and themes set the tone early which will leave many squirming in their seat. The eeriness of Derry is wonderfully shot by Checco Varese who captures the subtle abnormal atmosphere of the town. This is heightened with the return of the, now adult, Losers’ Club who appear almost alien like in their exploration of their hometown which seemed so normal to them last time around. The casting is incredible, not only have the filmmakers lured heavyweights such as James McAvoy (Bill) and Jessica Chastain (Beverly) to star in their horror film, the adult actors are very much like their child counterparts in looks and mannerisms.
As great as the cast are, Bill Hader steals the show as Richie. His younger counterpart, Finn Wolfhard, arguably did the same in Chapter One with his one liners, here Hader adds extra depth and maturity to a man that’s struggling with his fear of the irrational and his own secrets. It’s a powerful performance as he delivers each line, whether it be funny or not, with fantastic conviction. As the Losers wander Derry they are tortured by the ghosts of their childhoods which return along with their memories. The adult actors carry the weight of their life choices with a visible emotion that connects.
Skarsgård flourishes as Pennywise, adding layers to the child eating devil. The arrogant swagger still remains, but his portrayal is more frightening as Pennywise knows he needs to up his game to kill his foes. The actor is so self-assured in the role that he is able to evoke terror with a mere look. His voice remains startlingly sinister with his facial expressions switching from affable clown to vicious monster with apparent ease.
There are plenty of frights on offer but Gary Dauberman has included plenty of laughs to break the tension. The script is very witty with many laugh out loud moments. This works wonderfully to lighten the mood and hit reset on the horror. Muschietti doesn’t keep you in perpetual fear for nearly three hours, instead he’ll scare you senseless before allowing your heart rate to settle before cranking the scares back up. The film never drags, instead it flies by with the runtime used to great effect. King’s original novel clocks in at over a thousand pages, the essence of it (or It) is expertly captured over both films while Chapter Two delves into the mythos of It’s origins without ruining the mystery by over explanation.
It Chapter Two is a brilliant conclusion to one of the best horror movies of the last thirty years. It’s a more than worthy sequel that is allowed time to breathe and tell its story without needlessly rushing to the end. Chilling, disturbing and humorous, it denies to be constrained by its genre while shamelessly reviling in its traits. An outstanding film with a talented cast, it hits the right notes to deliver an epic experience. You’ll float too.