Review: With a Truly All Star Cast, Poignant Beats on Friendship and Terror, IT: CHAPTER 2 is a Must See Follow Up
Welcome to the Losers Club, asshole! One of my three most highly anticipated films this year (and the most anticipated horror film), It Chapter Two arrives nearly exactly two years after its predecessor, the 2017 blockbuster that became the highest-grossing horror film of all time. As someone who read Stephen King’s book (way too young) and have held the book near and dear to my heart for nearly twenty years, knowing the only adaptation of this novel was a beloved-yet-not-so-good T.V. mini-series, I became obsessed with a REAL adaptation that everyone knew would be a two-part epic film series. So, does It Chapter Two live up to the hype, deliver on the beloved film from two years prior and scare the every-loving shit out of you? Yes…yes it does.
After the summer of 1989, where our Losers’ Club fought off the entity known as It (or Pennywise), we see them all go their separate ways. Audiences fell in love with Bill (Jaeden Martell), Bev (Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chose Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stan (Wyatt Oleff) and Richie (Finn Wolfhard), connecting with each character in different ways. These characters, while great in the novel, were a whole new animal on screen, crafting a chemistry amongst young actors rarely seen on screen. These connections are what had people worried most for Chapter 2, as many feared the adult versions of these characters would be unable to match the same closeness. It’s safe to say this is going to be the most divisive aspect of the film, as some will think they add up well, while others will long for the twelve year-old counterparts. James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Bev), Jay Ryan (Ben), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stan) and Bill Hader (Richie) all embody their counterparts respectfully and truthfully. It felt as though these kids really grew into these people, especially Wolfhard to Hader, who, again, steals the show with his hilarious and often crude sense of humor.
The adult Losers’ are brought back to Derry by Mike after a string of mysterious murders and disappearances again rock this town, fulfilling a promise they made 27 years earlier. These beats really let the audience get to know the characters again. Most of these beats are great, but I can see audiences getting a little impatient, as they do drag on, as the film is almost nearly three hours long. The tension, however, is at an all-time high, as non-book fans will not know what comes next. Even the Ms. Keane scene that was shown in the first trailer is full of so much eeriness and grossness, it’s hard not to be freaked out.
Let’s talk about the entity ITself, Pennywise, played brilliantly again by Bill Skarsgård. Pennywise is more vengeful this time, violently and gruesomely stalking its prey. There are some scenes so haunting, it sticks with you even as the rest of the movie plays out. You’ve seen parts of the funhouse scene and the kissing bridge scenes in the trailer but trust me, constant readers, those scenes get way more intense. Skarsgård is a master at this craft, smiling, cackling and changing the directions of his eyes with ease, without the need for CGI. Also, small aside, separate Tim Curry and Skarsgård. They’re both different versions of Pennywise and both great, both sure to haunt generations of kids.
Director Andy Muschietti and his entire crew also craft a dark, gory and dimly beautiful film. Mainstream horror doesn’t get a lot of love for its cinematography, but there are some amazing shots and setups here, keeping the viewer guessing and sometimes unaware of where they are. When Pennywise is on screen, he dominates, but pay close attention to things around it, as they can really take you by surprise (and some easter eggs for diehards).
The film is a bit jerky, as it has A LOT to fill in. While the runtime is long, somehow Muschietti and his team rush through a lot of character development that IS necessary. Luckily, when it does slow down, we get a lot of backstory and brilliant acting, especially from the young kids, who are making what I would call glorified cameos. Flashbacks and retellings are a must in this story, but I can see it getting on the nerves of some of the less patient moviegoers,
It is hard to review It, and here is why. First, let me say that this is a fantastic horror movie, filled with a lot of pure terror, blood and easy comedy moments to heighten the tension. The acting is top notch (though not up to par), the CGI is solid and it stays true enough to the book, while also changing what is necessary for a modern audience. However, if you’ve read the book, some moments may disappoint. If you haven’t, you may wonder how the Hell any of this works in a 1200 page novel. However, based solely on a film and sequel standpoint, It Chapter Two is a worthy sequel that is guaranteed to frighten viewers. I can’t personally wait for an extended cut or a directors cut a la Kill Bill. Nearly six full hours of It!