It could be argued that 2017’s IT movie was lightning in a bottle, releasing at a time when the internet’s fascination with scary clowns was at an all-time high, while also capitalising on the success of Stranger Things with its eighties setting and child cast. From that perspective, it’s no surprise that Chapter Two has fared worse commercially than its predecessor, but in terms of overall quality the two films are remarkably consistent: they are both passable, which is no small feat in the horror genre.
Twenty-seven years since the events of the first film, the Losers’ Club are forced to reunite when gruesome murders once again blight their hometown of Derry. As the only member not to move away, it’s down to Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) to reassemble the group and remind them of the promise they made decades earlier: to destroy It (Bill Skarsgård) if it ever returned.
If there’s one element for which Chapter Two deserves genuinely high praise, it would be casting. Not only do the adult actors enlisted for this movie bear a striking resemblance to their younger counterparts, but so too do they succeed at portraying their mannerisms and character traits. James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough and James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak are particularly strong in this regard, while Bill Hader is able to elevate Richie Tozier to far more than mere comic relief.
The ensemble cast bounce off each other well, although regrettably don’t share nearly enough screen time together. A large portion of this film sees each character striking off on their own for a private personalised haunting, which by the third or fourth time becomes near-comically formulaic. Few of them leave a lasting impression, although the encounter between Beverly (Jessica Chastain) and Mrs. Kersh (Joan Gregson) is admittedly very effective, even if its impact is lessened slightly by its prominence in the trailers.
The previous IT movie also suffered from disjointed and underwhelming scares but had an ace up its sleeve with Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a less effective crutch in this installment. Bill Skarsgård is still giving it his all, but his malicious alter ego feels a little overexposed by Chapter Two‘s hefty runtime just shy of three hours.
Yet despite the lack of powerful scares, the film doesn’t drag (well, not much at least). That can be attributed largely to just how likable its core characters are in both their iterations. Rather than being typical slasher movie cannon fodder, they feel both real and familiar making it hard to lose interest in how their story ends.
Chapter Two‘s running gag about disappointing endings feels more like a sincere warning than meta humour, thus the film predictably fumbles in this area. It’s a surprisingly corny finale for a story with such dark tendencies, but it isn’t so bad as to taint the lengthy saga this duology has told.
Tasked with adapting a flawed and formidable novel, director Andy Muschetti has done a very serviceable job. While neither of his chapters break any new ground, both boast strong moments and a memorable ensemble cast. It’s unlikely that Hollywood will have the restraint to wait twenty-seven years before revisiting this story again, but certainly this adaptation is good enough to make the idea of a third attempt utterly moot.