IT Chapter Two is a King-size horror epic with an A-list ensemble cast, bigger and bloodier horror set pieces, and a running time that’s almost as long as the original TV mini-series.
27 years after they banished the impish entity known as Pennywise the clown, the Losers Club are called upon to honour the blood pact they made as teenagers should IT ever return. Uprooted from their adult lives and once again thrown together to vanquish the malevolent shapeshifter, the group must overcome childhood fears and past trauma to have any chance of finally defeating IT.
Where the novel alternated between timelines, Chapter Two takes a similar approach, integrating the teenage Losers via new footage that plugs narrative gaps in Chapter One and further fleshes the characters. It also impeccably matches the adult cast with their teen counterparts (particularly James Ransome and Jessica Chastain as grown-up Eddie and Beverly), and allows Bill Hader’s wisecracking Ritchie to steal every scene he’s in – and provide some welcome comic relief.
Bill Denbrough (an also nicely cast James McAvoy) is now a best-selling horror author and there’s a running joke that his books have lousy endings – an accusation frequently aimed at Stephen King, as well as a nod perhaps to the risible resolution of the mini-series adaptation. As the grand finale of the most successful horror film to date, there’s a lot riding on IT Chapter Two – most crucially its handling of the more metaphysical aspects of the novel’s climax, and the true nature of IT.
Fortunately the film is more successful in depicting Deadlights and a hint of cosmic horror, but the abundant scares and monsters throughout feel more like Conjuring Universe creations than King’s – the direct result of hiring screenwriter Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, The Nun) and the popular demands of modern horror. Moreover, the film’s most horrifying moments – a brutal hate crime, domestic violence, child abuse – aren’t a product of Pennywise but the real world.
Reprising the structure of the first film from an adult perspective and raising the stakes and fright factor, the closing chapter is a lot more nightmarish than its predecessor. It’s particularly apt then that a poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 can be seen hanging in the Derry cinema lobby – IT Chapter Two is analogous to an Elm Street film, with Pennywise in lieu of Freddy.
In cinemas: September 5, 2019
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader
Directed by: Andy Muschietti