I’ll be the first to admit that the first IT film (the 2017 one that is not the first first one) took me by surprise. As someone who is often left cold by horror films and their often predictable tropes, it drew me in with its immersive setting and focus on a core nucleus of extremely likeable characters.
Of course, readers of the Stephen King Novel from which the film originated will know that the story didn’t end there, the novel itself was also in two parts and was well over 1000 pages long, so it was only going to be a matter of time before ‘the losers club’ battled Pennywise again.
So, here we are with a new cast of adult ‘losers’ ready to do battle with a demented, demonic clown, and we are all ready to see the result.
27 years after first defeating Pennywise, The Losers Club is called back to Derry as the demonic entity rises again. As they arrive, their long-suppressed memories of their encounter resurface, as Pennywise sets his sights on them once more.
It was always going to come with a sense of diminishing returns, this one. When the first was released p, it was such a breath of fresh air that a follow-up would struggle to have the same impact, nevertheless, it does its damnedest, and comes pretty damn close.
I stand by every sentiment I have stated in the past few years that Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise is leagues ahead of Tim Curry’s. As much as I like and respect Tim, he comes nowhere near the level of unsettling that Skarsgård achieves, even before the editing trickery, just the voice and the way he moves is enough to make him one of Horror cinemas most iconic characters.
Speaking of characters, that was, for me, the strongest aspect of the first film. It had a strong emphasising its ‘Losers Club’ group, and each of them got their moment to shine. Naturally, some were more memorable than others, Richie Tozier, for example is my personal favourite in both films, as a child played by Finn Wolfhard and here by Bill Hader, who gives a career best performance as an emotionally-suppressed Richie.
The performances are strong across the board, in fact. The always dependable James McAvoy doesn’t disappoint, and Jessica Chastain seems to really fully grasp the character of Beverley, in all her complexities, quite admirably.
Like many Stephen King stories, if you go in with the wrong mindset, the story will seem nonsensical and oblique, but he has this unique knack of making the supernatural work in a grounded environment, for all the talk of ‘Dead Lights’ and ‘Ritual of Chüd’ it still manages to maintain a grip on a twisted reality that some would struggle with. He’s not afraid of delving into the supernatural, no matter how far-fetched it may seem, and IT is particularly far-fetched, let me tell you.
It’s a long watch as a film, clocking in at close to three hours, but not a minute is wasted, each member of the Losers gets their own unique showdown with Pennywise and the final third of the film is as tightly scripted and executed as the JFK assassination, I’m tempted to say that the last half an hour alone is worth the price of admission.
The film doesn’t escape the trappings of horror cinema completely however, for as much as the focus on the characters and their interactions with the monster remain in tact, there is also a heavier emphasis on my pet peeve jump scares this time round, some of which were quite effective, to give the filmmakers credit, but others were entirely predictable, and taken straight from the cliché books.
For all its faults in that area, and the stretching of the formula, IT Chapter 2 is a perfectly acceptable conclusion to the story, complete with the same likeable characters, an iconic monster, performances ranging from accomplished to career-defining, and a superb third act which gives just the right amount of closure to send both long-time fans and newcomers alike happy. It might not seem as fresh as the first-time around, but it is still a very worthwhile watch indeed.