Review: IT Chapter Two

And so – barring any future studio or literary shenanigans – IT ends.

IT Chapter Two is the creepy, edge-of-your-seat follow-up to the creepy, edge-of-your-seat horror film that hit the big screen in 2017. If you’ve read the book it’s based on (Stephen King’s second-longest, at 1138 pages), then you’re not only a glutton for punishment, you have a pretty good idea how it all plays out. I went in without a clue. I emerged a tad worse for wear psychologically, but generally satisfied with the film – and its ending.

If you hate horror, have a fear of clowns, and/or skipped IT (in any or all of its previous iterations), then Chapter Two is not for you. If you read the book, love horror, and/or saw IT, then grab a red balloon and float on over to a theater near you for the two-hour, 49-minute journey back to the fictional town of Derry, Maine. To paraphrase a vanity license plate recently in the news: PB4UGO.

Here’s the gist: Almost 30 years have gone by since adolescent members of the self-proclaimed Losers Club banded together to defeat Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the cosmically evil, shape-shifting clown that shows up every 27 years or so to snatch, terrorize and feed on the kids of Derry. In their youth, the Losers made a pact to reunite and fight the good fight – again – should evil make a return appearance in their hometown. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happens. The characters, now adults, are called upon to reassemble – albeit reluctantly – to face old demons and forge new bonds.

Andy Muschietti reprises his role as director, Skarsgård is back as Pennywise, and all the original kids – Jaeden Martell as Bill, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, Finn Wolfhard as Richie, Sophia Lillis as Beverly, Chosen Jacob as Mike, and Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben – reprise their roles in flashbacks intercut throughout the film. Those flashbacks help connect the audience to the older, present-day versions of the characters, portrayed by a well-cast slate of actors that includes Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Molly’s Game) as Beverly, James McAvoy (Split, Glass) as Bill, Bill Hader as Richie, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike, Jay Ryan as Ben, James Ransone as Eddie, and Andy Bean as Stanley. The biggest surprises? Chubby ‘new kid at school’ Ben is now hot. And Bill Hader is the scene-stealer of the group as the brilliantly snarky Richie who channeled his childhood pain into a successful career as a stand-up comic.

IT Chapter Two isn’t a slam dunk. The film is way too long and filled with tangential characters and sub-plots that don’t always track. It opens with a brutal gay-bashing scene that skews more horrific drama than horror-film grotesque (and serves as a good reminder that the film is rated R, so please don’t take young kids!). IT Chapter Two finds its rhythm about a half-hour into the story, once all the main characters have been reintroduced. And it’s at its most watchable (and dare I say, entertaining) when the Losers share the screen, which – due to necessity of plot – isn’t often enough.

I wasn’t in a huge hurry to return to Derry. But I felt like I owed it to myself to see what became of those tormented, brave and endearing kids who stood up to a homicidal clown and vowed to do it again if necessary. On the whole, IT was (by far) the stronger and scarier film, while Chapter Two is a means to a fitting end. Assuming of course that IT really is over. I guess we’ll know for sure circa 2043.

 

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