Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated the horrifying Pennywise the Clown, they have all grown up and moved on with their lives – but not past the terrifying memories. A phone call brings the former Losers back to Derry, Maine for them to once again do battle with their deepest fears.
The hotly anticipated sequel to the best-selling horror film of all time is here. IT Chapter Two drops us with a bang back into the eerily idyllic town of Derry as locals attack an out-of-town couple at a carnival in the opening minutes. No surprises for guessing who turns up to pick off one of the unlucky pair after he is beaten up and thrown into the river. This scene sums up everything that’s good and what isn’t about the second IT film.
The unprovoked violence is a nod to Pennywise’s grim influence over the town and acknowledges the existence of human evil without any need for otherworldly influence. This is a theme strongly discussed in the book, with fidelity to Stephen King’s characteristic style one of the film’s overall strengths. However, this scene’s flaw is giving away Pennywise’s monstrosity too early – the second installment throws away many of the scarier moments by leaning on CGI to make us jump. It’s a crime the film comes back to again and again.
The narrative blended previously unseen flashbacks of Pennywise terrorising the Losers’ childhoods with the killer clown haunting the Losers as adults. While this helped fill in some blanks from the first edition, it also muddled the action of IT Chapter Two and contributed to a lot of repetition. This resulted in a near three-hour run time – this is a huge risk in a genre in which you can become emotionally tired quickly. And while I never found myself checking my watch, scare sequences quickly started to lose their effect after a while.
Too much CGI furthered this numbness. While there were some terrifying new creatures in IT Chapter Two (the reunion scene in the Chinese restaurant stands out), many were mediocre and some downright silly. Regardless of whether director Andy Muschetti choose to add new scary elements or whether he followed the book to the word, less is often more in the horror genre. Someone should have made the choice to cut some of the weaker sequences earlier.
The film’s strength lies in its fidelity to King’s familiar themes in the novel. The battle between evil and the power of friendship comes up constantly in IT Chapter Two, with the group more divided by each individual’s fears this time around. This made an excellent counterpoint to the first film, contrasting the complexity of adulthood with the simplicity of childhood. The second installment also explored the theme of secrecy – as adults, the Losers have more to hide from each other, and this gives their war against Pennywise more twists and turns. The actors (particularly Bill Hader) perform well as the grown-up Losers, giving the film much needed heart, grit and comic relief.
Overall, IT Chapter Two was overkill. Too much CGI and too much going on left the film flat in isolation. However, when paired with Chapter One, the two are still compelling.
When combined, Chapter One and Two of IT makes for a scary watch. Alone, the second installment’s slow pacing and narrative loose ends leave it feeling a little flat. 5/10.