In the wake of the very successful and the highest-grossing horror movie of 2017, ‘IT: Chapter Two’ brings the Stephen King story to an end. It’s been 27 years since the evil clown Pennywise bought terror to the kids in “The Losers Club” of Bill, Beverly, Ben, Mike, Richie, Eddie, and Stanley in Derry, Maine.
Mike (Isiah Mustafa) has stayed in Derry for those 27 years and he calls his old childhood friends to make good on their pact. Five of them, Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), and Ben (Jay Ryan) show up and Mike tells them about a ritual to send the returning Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) away for good. As fading memories start to come back, and the torments from the evil clown become fiercer, it begins to seem that our favorite “losers” might not make it out alive as they did all those years ago – unless they stick together.
Stephen King adaptions seem to continue to be on a roll with moviegoers and horror-heads alike. Audiences got a reimagining and the less than satisfying remake of ‘Pet Sematary’ and the long-awaited sequel to ‘The Shining’, ‘Doctor Sleep’, hits theaters November 8, 2019. Kicking off the fall, ‘IT: Chapter Two’ handily outdoes summer blockbusters such as ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ and ‘Men in Black: International’. It even beats horror films in recent memory such as ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ and ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’.
Although marred by some pacing issues, at two hours and forty-nine minutes, ‘IT: Chapter Two’ is never boring or limiting on the scares, laughs, solid performances, and creepy visuals. This cast is one of the best features of this thrilling adventure.
The adult versions of these kids not only look like the kids grown up, but they capture their heart. Bill Hader as Richie Tozier is hilarious and he gets a ton of time to shine on the big screen. Hader rattles off a lot of jokes that make his comic relief and character make some dramatic sense. One of Hader’s funniest lines comes from the gang reuniting for the first time at a Chinese restaurant. They come across some ghoulish fortune cookies with a pay-off gag of, “Can we get the check?” This is recurring throughout the flick. Wherever evil roams humor is injected to rebalance the atmosphere.
One actor who isn’t getting enough credit at the moment is James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak. Ransone completely changes his voice and even body movements to match his younger character self, previously played by Jack Dylan Grazer. Ransone is the most believable of the cast you could believe is Eddie grown up.
Mike Hanlon is the reason the friends get back together and Mike has way more depth and personality to his character the second time around. James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough and Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, as usual, bring their A-game. Adult Beverly finds herself in an abusive marriage and miserable. At first, I believed actress Amy Adams would be a better fit to play Beverly because Adams looks more like Sophia Lillis, who played the young Beverly. However, Chastain captures the personality of Beverly perfectly.
James McAvoy is an author and there is this recurring joke throughout the film that his endings aren’t very good. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a dig at the original source material or the 1986 book. From what I’ve heard from those who read the book, the film does have a slightly different ending.
Director Andy Muschietti knows exactly want horror fans want in a bigger sequel like this and he delivers. The second time around fans gets more creepy visuals and more Pennywise. The visuals in this film may not have the best CGI. However, they are stylish and it’s a glorified creep show for giant monsters, shrieking scary monsters, and crawly super creeps. From giants, to drooling clowns, to grotesque shape-shifting spiders and creatures you’d see from John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, ‘IT: Chapter Two’ has funhouse theatrics of terror and ‘Stranger Things’ type of level spooks.
Furthermore, the cinematography is great. Cinematographer Checco Varese makes the best out of long shots. These shots add a sense of isolation and Varese knows how to play with dark spaces.
Even at a young age, the 29-year-old Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise is one of the best horror icons on the big screen. If it wasn’t already obvious from the first film, Skarsgård’s Pennywise is right up there with horror legends such as Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger, Kane Hodder’s Jason Voorhees, or even Tim Curry’s 1990s Pennywise. Skarsgård has left his mark in the horror community and I can’t wait to see him branch out into other genres of film such as his upcoming Drama/Mystery film with Maika Monroe (‘IT Follows’) titled ‘Villains’.
The titular beast may feed on fear, but this movie (much like its predecessor) doesn’t scare us beyond the traditional jolt. For all its dark secrets, repressed guilt, amnesia, visions, sewers flooded with blood and corpses of children, or even violent acts of homophobia, the film remains the usual popcorn movie most mainstream audiences will appreciate.
There are a lot of flashback scenes to the first film and transitions to the Losers Club as kids. Some of this is okay but there are a few that are not needed. Some of them tend to slow down the momentum or take away the tone from a scene. It goes back and forth with transitions and flashbacks so many times it feels like the 1990 ‘IT’ for those who’ve seen it. The interplay between the past and present in the movie works best when it brings back the cast of kids to show us something new that we didn’t see in the first movie.
Teach Grant plays the grownup bully to The Losers Club, Henry Bowers. This character is not needed at all and he is hardly in the movie. I found the younger version of Bowers to be way more menacing than locked up in a mental asylum for 27 years and possessed by Pennywise Bowers ever was.
There are a lot of fun horror movie Easter Eggs and nods throughout the film that film buffs will instantly get a kick out of. From the ripped shower curtain scene from ‘Psycho’ to another famous Stephen King adaption and quote from ‘The Shining’, you can tell director Andy Muschietti is having a blast making this movie. There is even an ‘ET’ type of feel when Bill buys his old childhood bike back from an antique salesman, one of the many very good cameos.
Overall, “IT: Chapter Two’ is a very fine follow-up and it’s a great way to start early and bring in the Halloween or fall season. This is some of the best castings in a while and Bill Skarsgård proves why his serial-killer Krusty works so well. Fun visuals, laughs, and ‘IT: Chapter Two’ has something for everyone that’ll keep viewers afloat.
Images: IT: Chapter Two and Warner Bros. Pictures