It: Chapter 2
There aren’t many horror franchises in the world today that hold as much anticipation as It. For every Conjuring there’s an Annabelle, and, for the most part, horror sequels fail to deliver on the (occasionally) refreshing first instalments. Whilst It: Chapter 2 doesn’t quite deliver the same punch as the first, it is still a satisfying outing from the Stephen King oeuvre, albeit with less scares.
In 2016, 27 years after the Losers Club believes to have defeated the being known as Pennywise (Skarsgård), Mike (Mustafa) discovers that the clown has returned, and calls upon his former friends to come back to Derry to fight him once again. Upon returning, they discover that what they remember of the town they grew up in is very little, and each has to face their own past in order to remove him from their lives for good.
At a lengthy 169 minutes, the film is never dull, but it does contain fat. An opening sequence - a homophobic attack outside a fairground - is perhaps the most disturbing and uncomfortable moment in the entire film. A little too close to our reality, it clashes with the more fantastical horror later, and although taken from the book, it serves no purpose to the story that follows; most of these people are never seen again, and Pennywise’s return to Derry could easily be explained elsewhere.
To further add to its running time are flashbacks to the younger Losers Club, their de-aged faces (yes, really) embarking on more adventures in the summer of ’89. Although fun to see the kids again, it fails to serve much a purpose, save for a few moments to explain what they did when not constantly together. If trimmed, the overly long runtime could comfortably match that of the first – 135 minutes – and not much would be missed at all.
The first of these chapters did what many films struggle with: putting together a perfect cast of kids who are not only able to embody their own characters, but enhance each other’s; such was their chemistry that the film could be forgiven for even their most major of flaws. Whilst the adult versions of the terrorised children are good, there isn’t the same easy gel that is so integral to this story. Perhaps this is a case of casting, however, it seems more likely that they are not given as much to do together, as the film calls for them to split up for a large chunk of the runtime.
Individually speaking, the cast is very good. Chastain does a good job of carrying over the emotional trauma Beverly has experienced in childhood (not just from Pennywise), and the always underrated James McAvoy, though not given much to do, plays a convincing older version of Bill. The standout, however, is Bill Hader’s Richie – the character is fleshed out to extend past the comic relief role in the first film and turns out to be the heartbeat of its sequel. Although obviously showcasing his naturally ability to make us laugh, Hader’s best work is in his quieter moments, the secret he holds weighing heavy on his shoulders, simmering just beneath the comedy he uses to hide it.
And then, of course, there’s Pennywise. Skarsgård is truly a knock-out, a testament to his work given that his presence is considerably lesser than in Chapter One. To the film’s detriment, the entity plaguing Derry takes many forms this time around, as opposed to the more consistent clown, but Skarsgård’s performance is incredibly captivating – see, for example, a scene in which he appears sans clown-face, painting his face white to prepare as Pennywise.
It’s one of the many discomforting shots of the film, as each adult faces their fears, both old and new when attempting to reconstruct their memories. There are some quite disgusting ideas at play, from exploding fortune cookies to a very The Thing inspired creature, but unfortunately, a lot are CGI heavy – whilst visual effects are not to be scoffed at, they work better when enhancing something, as opposed to engulfing it, and at times it can be distracting.
Making the perfect sequel to a well-regarded film is not an easy task, particularly in the world of horror. It: Chapter 2 is slightly lesser than the sum of its parts, slightly too long and overstuffed, however, it is still an enjoyable ride with some genuinely devastating emotional beats.