Guess who’s back, back again…IT Chapter One was both a box office and critical hit, quickly becoming the highest-grossing horror film of all time. Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved novel proved a winning combination of 80’s nostalgia and scares (with heart), leading to the birth of a modern horror blockbuster, winning over this absolute wimp in the process! Two years later and Muschietti is back with a brand new, star studded cast in this ambitious and highly anticipated sequel, but does the second outing successfully recapture the magic of the original, whilst simultaneously wrapping the terrifying tale up?
Twenty-seven years after the horrific events that occurred in the town of Derry and children begin to mysteriously disappear again, in often gruesome circumstances. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of The Losers Club to stay in the town, instantly recognises the spate of juvenile murders, signifying his worst nightmare – the inevitable return of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). Armed with the knowledge of how to defeat the clown for good, he reunites the rest of the now grown-up Losers, who must overcome their greatest fears and band together to defeat the evil that reigns over the town.
IT Chapter Two is a bigger, bolder and more chilling outing that delves much deeper into the horror aspects of the source material. The film features plenty of nightmare fuelled visions that will definitely stick with you long after the film ends, believe me! The horror sequences were truly gripping, successfully heightening each of your senses – I was genuinely on the edge of my seat for a lot of the third act, which showcased some truly brutal visuals. There were also a number of weird and wonderful Pennywise manifestation which wildly ranged in size and creepiness; some were truly unnerving whereas others (mainly a naked Mrs. Kersh) actually made me giggle, maybe out of nervousness!
Along with the scares, Muschietti continues to flesh out King’s key theme of facing your fear to overcome personal demons. “It kills monster if you believe it does” Beverly encouragingly tells Eddie in one touching scene, highlighting the fact that the Losers once again need each other to face Pennywise. There’s also a defining sweet melancholy to this film, highlighting the loss of childhood innocence through cleverly interwoven flashbacks in important moments of the narrative. Tonally though, it’s a bit of a strange combination of horror and mythology with comedy and heart, with this mismatch also reflecting in the pacing of the film. Yes Chapter Two clocks in at an impressive 2 hours and 50 minutes, and although it doesn’t necessarily feel like too long a film, there was definitely a slow build up to the main action.
Those that loved the brilliant chemistry of the original kids – fear not, the casting of the older Losers Club is absolutely perfect, scarily so at times! James Ransone wonderfully captures the neurotic mannerisms of Jack Dylan Grazer’s Eddie, once again replicating that endearing banter with Bill Hader’s Richie. Surprisingly though, Hader steals the majority of the scenes with his hilarious turn as the wise cracking comedian, providing some much needed comic relief to break up the tension. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain really do immerse themselves in their roles; at times I thought Chastain’s fear in one particular scene was genuine and McAvoy’s inability to forgive himself for what happened in the past was truly tragic. But the real star was Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, who completely embodies the hellish being. Even without the makeup he’s utterly terrifying, proving a true physical performer to rival Andy Serkis’ Gollum.
Overall, IT Chapter 2 is a terrifying horror that genuinely gets under your skin. As previously alluded to, I’m not usually one for this genre, but I found myself truly engrossed thanks to the excellent (and tender) performances from the stellar cast. Remember, you’re braver than you think!