REVIEW: It Chapter Two (Spoiler Free)

Twenty seven years is so specific… couldn’t it have just been rounded up to thirty?

*Almost* three decades after the last sighting of the demonic clown, Pennywise, the now middle-aged members of the Losers Club are forced to return to their hometown of Derry to confront It whom seemingly has resurfaced.

Following on from the remarkable success of 2016’s It, Andy Muschietti’s horror sequel takes the notoriously boring half of Stephen King’s classic novel and makes something… well… watchable out of it. It Chapter Two may not be the brilliantly struck gold that was its 2016 predecessor, but it managed to offer some fulfilling entertainment that bordered on the tedious and cheesy at times, despite still being a worthy successor.

IT: CHAPTER TWO
(Warner Bros. 2019)

 

There’s something about the story of It from the perspective of children that makes the horror tale a whole lot more endearing. Firstly, the threat of a monstrous clown comes across way more scary from the perspective of a child rather than that of an adult. Secondly, when Stephen King tends to write adult characters, most of the time they can devolve into the same formulaic blueprint of basically just being a horror writer from Maine, as per usual. However, with child characters, King has a way of designing worlds and concepts so fitting to coming-of-age stories. Take Stand by Me for example, a King adaptation which succeeds in its horror-like elements because it works first and foremost as a brilliant coming-of-age story. And that’s kind of the same with the 2016 It; a film that certainly belongs to the horror genre but takes time in focusing on its coming-of-age elements in order for the horror to really pop. People naturally scare more when they watch characters they know, love and can empathise with go through trauma… and who hasn’t been a lonely kid before who’s relied on friends to help combat and overcome their fears? Now taking that whole general conceit and just applying it to the adult versions of said characters, honestly, does not have the exact same effect.

Now, firstly, I want to really make clear my standing that I found It Chapter Two genuinely freaky. I hear a lot of people say this movie was not as scary as the first film, but considering I haven’t seen the first film since I saw it in cinemas back in 2016, I honestly believe I found this sequel horrifying even to the extent of the original. Maybe its just because there were so many breaks in between the horror sequences of this film that made each one standout more, but… yeah, there were moments in Chapter Two that really aced the horror high bar in my opinion. Standout sequences included, but were not limited to, a moment featuring an elderly lady, another at a baseball game and another under a bridge towards the beginning of the film – truly some uncomfortable cinematic experiences.

And a lot of the reason the horror worked was because of one Bill Skarsgård and his performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Now, you are going to hear a lot of noise concerning the performances of the adult Losers Club cast, but I really do not want people to overlook the main attraction of this film that is Skarsgård’s It. Granted he may not get as much to do in this film as he did in the 2016 film, but Skarsgård’s portrayal of the clown is still excellent beyond compare. Not only are clowns inherently creepy thanks to the influence of pop culture but Skarsgård brings a level of horror to his performance that transcends the creepy clown in face paint. The creature truly feels like an ambiguous monster that barely resembles human traits and furtherly lends itself to moments of sheer terror that only an actor of high calibre could have possibly pulled off. So, yeah, I still think Skarsgård is one of the best elements of these two It films by far.

However, horror does not work purely off the range of a performance but also because of the finer technicalities in filmmaking. The visual effects department really did a brilliant job in amplifying the terror behind the monster that is It. The make-up and hair stylings were on point and the costuming and art design as well really sold every moment to the audience. I also want to quickly give appreciation to the sound design and how sound was generally incorporated in the film; most of the time horror flicks go overboard with sound for cheap scares like jump scares but Chapter Two managed to use sound well and to great effect.

The cinematography equally developed some stellar shots and I also have to say, randomly, Chapter Two had some pretty genius transitions. The colour grading did its part as well in making the film drab when it needed to, overexposed when it wanted to and dark when it had to. All in all, I cannot really fault Chapter Two much on its technicalities (well, apart from its kind of generic score), but its more to do with the story and characters that made Chapter Two a lesser film than its predecessor.

I saw Chapter Two with a friend who previously hadn’t seen the first It. We went into the theatre around 8pm and left at 11pm (already a negative – way too long) to which I turned to her and suggested she should now go back and watch the 2016 film. Her reply was this: “I don’t think I need to, I think I just saw it”. And that is my biggest concern with Chapter Two – it had no confidence in existing beyond the first film.

Chapter Two flashbacked so many times to the original that it may as well have been marketed as a story about the kids just as much as a story about their adult counterparts… maybe even more so. The movie never relied on the audience’s preconceived knowledge and found itself constantly jumping back to the past with long drawn out sequences of the adult characters just sitting around town and remembering nightmares from the past – some we had already seen before. Chapter Two was tiresome because it just would not let up on constantly reminding the audience it was a sequel to, dare I say it, a more action-packed, entertaining film. It’s almost as if the filmmakers had completely surrendered to the idea that the adult story from the book is less exciting than the children story and, hence, the movie should just avoid its original intent. And yet, this film managed to be very faithful to the novel, which then pulls into question how in the hell could the filmmakers have made this more exciting when the original material kind of isn’t and the original film kind of is.

What needed to happen with Chapter Two was a complete revisiting of the editing room; there were a strong amount of scenes that could have been cut or shortened. What Chapter Two truly needed to do was put faith in the adult versions of the characters and the new, modern world they inhabited rather than just continuously fall back on the safety net of the 80s original. The beginning of the movie felt so overly rushed that the audience barely managed to grasp any real developed characterisations of the various Loser Club members. Bare in mind, this movie is set twenty seven years after the first and we all know that adults are not the same people as they were when they were kids. We just needed more time to establish characters and understand their place in this new world rather than just have the filmmakers go, “hey, remember this is the fat kid and this is the stuttering kid and this is the black kid and blah, blah, blah”. It’s such a shame as well being as though the cast they assembled for the adult Losers Club was spot on perfect.

All seven actors managed to not only nail the mannerisms of their younger co-stars but just their looks in general visually called back to the children near perfectly. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain were really good but, honestly, were not the standouts in my opinion. I quite enjoyed Jay Ryan and especially James Ransone. Isaiah Mustafa and Andy Bean were pretty good, but, come on, how am I not going to name Bill Hader as the real star of Chapter Two. Not only was Hader’s character of Richie Tozer possibly the most developed of all the seven characters, but Hader in general is an incredible actor and showcased it in this film. They always say comedians give the best dramatic performances (like for example, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell) and with Hader in It, I would have to agree; hilarious, tearful and a clear bright spot in the entire film.

So yeah, It Chapter Two was not on par with the original. It made the best with what it had and then some, but its tedious runtime and general slow pacing could not be ignored. Although I would say visually the film was brilliant, atmospherically it captured the feeling and tone of King’s literal style perfectly and, performance-wise, talents like Skarsgård and Hader really elevated the material in places, Chapter Two did still leave a bit to be desired. A little too overly cheesy and more dramatically cringeworthy at points, Chapter Two was an enjoyable horror film that excelled in its genre but remained scaled down to its original… still, it was way better than most King adaptations, am I right?

It Chapter Two is a bloody… CRUSADE!!

 

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