It Chapter Two, 2019.
Directed by Andy Muschietti.
Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Skargard, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Teach Grant, Jaeden Martell, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, and Nicholas Hamilton.
Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.
It is back, somehow more powerful and dastardly than before. 27 years on from when we left the Losers Club, the members make their return to Derry, facing up once again against the shape-shifting, child-devouring monster that plagues their memories. But remembering is half the battle, the group having erased that spooky summer entirely from their collective consciousness. With Mike leading the charge and rallying the troops, these grown ups must face the inner demons they have been fighting off all these years, before standing up to the altogether more terrifying outer demon, persistently in clown form.
Where the first chapter of this story was very much a coming of age tale, this latter half radiates nostalgia. The slick device for remembering the past offers lovely opportunities for flashbacks, filling the convenient gaps of time between the distinct events of the first film. It is a gimmick, maybe, but the amount of thought in linking the two time zones is clear and impressive. This reflects in the choice of actors as well – they look and sound exactly as you would expect older versions of the child actors to, and pull off fantastic imitations of individual character traits. There is not a weak link among them, but James McAvoy’s stutter, Bill Hader’s deadpan and Jay Ryan’s sad, longing eyes are particularly pleasing. As Pennywise’s abilities seem to be even stronger than before, Bill Skarsgard too is allowed a lot more room, brought far further out of the shadows to play. Director Andy Muschietti amps up the thrills and scares to a whole new level, experimenting not just with jumps and shocks, but body and monster horror too. It is certainly not revolutionary or breaking any formulas, but it is absolutely a pleasure to revel in the fun and fear the filmmakers create here.
Muschietti does manage to separate It from its peers by treating the genre as merely the second most important aspect; the primary being the characters. As in the first chapter, screenwriter Gary Dauberman retains the brilliant layering from Stephen King’s novel, never allowing for one character to seem more or less important than the others. Gone is the sense that Bill’s self blame for the loss of his little brother should be more worthy of our attention than Mike’s parental hauntings, or Eddie’s compulsive cleanliness. Of course, this runs the film into some trouble: making room for each and every character’s story to be told in full adds considerably to the movie’s length. In addition, for every well threaded arc – such as the wonderful Ben/Bev/Bill love triangle – there is a paradoxically weak development conjured seemingly from nothing. Here the forgotten summer device provides a little too much convenience; Richie’s sudden character direction, though handled with impressive care, rings a little hollow in comparison to most other aspects of the story.
Many times It Chapter Two returns to the idea of bad endings in horror stories, be they books or films. Perhaps the filmmakers are pre-empting audience reactions, and play it safe as a result. But Dauberman is wise in how close he sticks to the brilliant source material – confining Bill and Bev’s respective spouses almost entirely to the side-lines limits distraction, though the same courtesy could probably have been afforded to a certain returning antagonist. As it is, the final message about standing up to bullies may seem a little trite, but the themes of friendship, memory and fear more than make up the difference. It Chapter Two stands above other genre entries on the strength of its writing, certainly, but that is definitely no reason to underestimate the scares.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★