Pennywise the dancing clown is back for round two, and he’s back with a vengeance.
It doesn’t seem like five minutes since we saw Pennywise the dancing clown terrorising pre-teens in suburban Maine but here we are, back for round two. With Chapter One grossing a staggering $700 million at the box office and taking the crown for most successful horror film ever, Chapter Two has expectations set high and for the most part, it does deliver.
The film picks up 27 years after the events of the first installment, and sees the famous Losers club, who have since parted ways, reconvene to save their small town of Derry from the eponymous It, who has begun to wreak havoc once again.
The child actors have been replaced with suitably older counterparts, and for the most part the casting is spot on. James McAvoy, Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain deliver solid performances as Bill, Richie and Beverly, but it is Hader who is a true standout. His turn as the sardonic ‘funnyman’ of the group with a deep-seated vulnerability is pitch-perfect. Hader draws from his career-making comedic prowess and serves as much needed relief throughout the film, but it’s his ability to bring a painstaking dose of tragedy that will have you in tears.
Overall, the film does what you want it to. It is really horrifying. I’m no stranger to horror as a genre, but some of the images on display had me downright disturbed. The creators truly delved into the deepest recesses of their minds to find this stuff, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
I do think the film should come with a trigger warning for the opening scene, which having not read the novel, I was not expecting. It shows a brutal homophobic attack carried out on two gay men by Derry’s local thugs. It’s a prolonged scene and the camera is unflinching, capturing every detail; just something to bear in mind for those going to watch the film.
Although director Andy Muscietti does a great job building tension throughout the film, things begin to stagnate towards the third act. Adapting King’s lengthy source material was always going to be a challenge, the novel itself being over 1000 pages. The film attempts to cram as much as possible from the book into its script and although it lends the film its authenticity, it leaves us with a hefty three hour runtime. If it’s not a Middle Earth epic or a Quentin Tarantino movie, it really shouldn’t be that long.
The third act, which predictably sees the Losers try and take down Pennywise in an epic, visually glorious final battle, it’s also downright long. Muscietti stages a wonderful finale, just one that needed longer in the editing suite. By the time the credits roll, you are left feeling exhausted – no one’s heart needs three hours of jump scares.
Nonetheless, the film is a solid horror and balances character work with scares perfectly. As a genre, horror can sacrifice the former for the latter, resorting in stock characters: the innocent girl who somehow makes it to the end, the seductress who without fail, always dies first, the old wise man who seems to know exactly what is going on, etc. Yawn.
That is where It is different. Its (haha) characters are just as integral to the story as its plot and it devotes adequate time to developing them. The second chapter picks up where the first left off, with the Losers themselves, their friendship and their sense of solidarity with one another. They are the ones holding the story together.
Overall, the film is a deeply disturbing but truly satisfying conclusion to the story set up in the first film. It may be overly long but it gets there eventually, and by the end, you won’t leave disappointed. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a cheeky Stephen King cameo.
It Chapter Two is out in cinemas now.