In IT: Chapter Two - following the hugely successful semi-adaptation from 2017 - screenwriter Gary Dauberman plunges into repressed memories and traumas to try and destroy the monster within. In many ways, this whole horrible experience is like a sadistic form of psychotherapy.
The monster is IT, or Pennywise the Clown – a supernatural entity floating around the small Maine town of Derry, ripping apart the souls and bodies of children, before hibernating for another 27 years. Now he’s re-emerged from the historic sewers, and he’s worse, much, much, much worse. There’s only one gang of Derryians who can stop him: the Losers’ Club.
The Losers' Club, reunited
Mike Hanlon is the only Loser to remain in Derry, the only one who remembered what happened. When ‘the terror’ (as King called it) returns, Mike rings up the Losers, who have moved away and grown into taller, hairier, ganglier versions of their child selves. The kids also cycle around Chapter Two in flashbacks, like an elegant compendium of Deleted Scenes from Chapter One.
Chapter Two, more than the first, excels in the horror and the humour – often joining together like a wedding party smeared in blood and confetti, creating a never-ending fit of entertainment. When the Losers’ Club reunite in a Chinese restaurant, they return to the loving, laughing joy they experienced as 11-year-olds, but with added alcohol. The mock one another, harp back to old times and make immature 'Your Mum' jokes.
Casting director Rich Delia really outdoes himself. The grown-up actors’ chemistry boils and laughs together as much as the kids’. The comic chemistry between the hilarious double-act Bill Hader and James Ransone (playing Richie and Eddie) is a highlight, and even threatens to upstage the central love triangle performed by James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Bev), and Jay Ryan (Ben, who’s now lost weight and grown into some model-level looks).
IT (Bill Skarsgard) is worse - much, much, much worse
But it’s not long before Pennywise raises his ugly head, or an ominous red balloon, or an army of soul-shocking monstrosities. As a film that scratches the three-hour mark (just a tad too much), it’s an awfully long time for the viewer’s heart and lungs to be gripped as if in a vice. Pennywise enters in bloody drips and drabs at first, but he’s always there: watching, waiting. This occasionally leads into baggy pockets of supernatural silliness with the, um, Ritual of Chüd, but it’s all part of the ridiculous fun.
Although Chapter Two veers away from the original book, there are creepy reminders of the atmosphere created by King. In one interaction with Richie, Pennywise looks and speaks from afar, taunting him, distorting his reality, and revealing his true fears via petrifying visions.
Bill Skarsgard returns as the face-painted conjurer of fears, and there’s not a shred of humanity in his evil, twisted performance, which more than matches Tim Curry’s version in the 1990 miniseries adaptation. To go even further: IT is this generation’s Freddy Krueger, making Skarsgard the modern Robert Englund.
Screenwriter Gary Dauberman and director Andy Muschietti struggle more with the emotional drama between the characters, either hitting or missing. But the hits strike hard, especially with Stan, who lays plenty of tear-jerking messages about memory, childhood, and the value of being who you are – no matter the monsters that live among or within us.
|What||IT: Chapter Two review|
06 Sep 19 – 06 Sep 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|