It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Pennywise terrified audiences around the world, made audiences believe in great film adaptations, and with a well deserved 700 million dollar return, became the most profitable horror film ever made. IT reimagined Pennywise the dancing clown and made him, and the forms he took, some of the most frightening monsters ever put to film. A masterclass in storytelling and scares, audiences have been excited for the return of Pennywise and The Losers Club from the moment the credits rolled on Chapter One.
It’s been 27 years since Pennywise was defeated and the town of Derry has seemingly forgotten about him. But history is beginning to repeat itself and after a string of murders and disappearances, Mike Hanlon (Isiah Mustafa – Horrible Bosses) the only member of the Losers Club to have stayed in Derry calls up his old friends to remind them of their promise to return and take IT on if it reappeared. But not only have the rest of the club moved on with their lives, they have forgotten everything about their childhood in the town. Including the events of almost three decades previous.
It’s not long before the reunited friends Richie (Bill Hader – Trainwreck), Stan (Andy Bean – Transformers: The Last Knight), Ben (Jay Ryan – Mary Kills People), Bill (James McAvoy – Split), Beverly (Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game) and Eddie (James Ransone – Sinister) are together again. But with the return to their home town come the visions and terrors that plagued them a lifetime ago, and now the fully grown Losers must take on Pennywise and defeat him before he hibernates for another 27 years and their fates are sealed.
IT Chapter Two has enormous shoes to fill. In a way, it has the same problem that fell on Deadpool 2 when it came out. The first entry was so surprisingly good, that following a film so close to perfect is a mammoth task. What made part one so good wasn’t just one thing, it was a combination of splendid performances by Bill Skarsgård and the children he was terrorising. It was a tension-filled movie that even with its over two hour run time didn’t let up on the scares and it was sublimely directed by Mama director Andy Muschietti.
Thankfully Chapter Two has all of that, plus an excellent grown up cast – many you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be in a horror film – fighting against the evil clown and all of his incarnations. It’s a cast that is responsible for the longevity of the film. At nearly three hours long, IT Chapter Two has an uphill battle against its genre. Horror doesn’t lend itself to epic length films, it’s near impossible to keep the tension and the scares up for the length of the first two acts – it’s a problem that plagues films like The Conjuring too. To keep the audience’s interest, things have to change up a little bit. With IT, an extension of the laughs we saw in the first chapter is how the film makes you forget the long run time. Richie has left Derry and become a stand-up comedian, so his return to the small town brings laughs almost every time show-stealing Bill Hader is on screen. A meal with his buddies, or running from one of the best evil entities put to film, it doesn’t matter – the laughs are coming and it balances the tension of IT perfectly.
Backing up Hader is some top-tier talent that brings the likes of James McAvoy, James Ransone and Jessica Chastain into the fold. While they might not seem like your first choices for a horror film, there is a quiet pedigree here with the stars having plenty of scary movie background – with Split, Sinister and Muschietti’s own Mama, respectively – to make it so they don’t have to force you to believe them in these roles.
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Where Chapter One focused solely on the 1989 Losers, Chapter Two puts the spotlight almost exclusively on the losers of 2016 while filling in some gaps from both previous to, and after the time of Pennywise’s demise. This does leave some issues where things appear that aren’t accurately or obviously shown: did a certain clubhouse appear before or after they defeated the clown? If before, why wasn’t this mentioned at all during Chapter One? It’s a petty frustration that feels like it wasn’t thought through properly. At over a thousand pages, IT is the scary equivalent of War and Peace so we can have a film that doesn’t need to be sticking to its source material 100%, it is acceptable to change things up to keep continuity while keeping your new ideas in the film. So continuity frustrations aren’t really excusable.
But this is a minor niggle in an otherwise perfectly constructed horror film that extends on the brilliance of the first. IT Chapter Two is just as scary as the first part, with Pennywise getting the lion’s share of excellent moments. Whether we are seeing Pennywise as himself, or one of his monstrous creations, Skarsgård is once again the star of the show with this second chapter – followed very closely by Javier Botet (Freehold) the man under the makeup for so many of those monsters. The moment we watch Skarsgård become the clown in Bev’s waking nightmare is going to sit atop of a list of great film moments of 2019. It’s not scary, but it is brilliantly intense and nightmare inducing.
IT Chapter Two is going to feel like it is fighting against the legacy of the first. It sort of is. Expectations are sky high after Chapter One came out and blew the roof off of every screen it showed in, and while it might not feel like it hits the watermark left by the first part, Chapter Two lives up to the hopes left by part one and then some.
It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s tense. IT Chapter Two is perfectly directed and superbly acted. It’s not just a worthy sequel to Chapter One, it is a near-flawless continuation of a story that becomes an epic five hour, best-in-class horror experience.