He’s back… 27 years later… or two years later… Pennywise has returned to Derry. The Losers’ Club are forced to return to the town they grew up in to go toe-to-toe with the evil presence they didn’t know they forgot. In It Chapter Two, a new cast joins the original young cast in the epic conclusion to one of Stephen King‘s most recognisable stories.
This is the second adaptation of the adult portion of King’s It novel, following the 1990 miniseries, and it’s now very evident that this portion of this story is considerably more difficult to pull off than the younger section. In part because it’s tough to fit into a single film, in part because you still need to link to the first film, and also due to the book going to such weird places that it’s hard to cherry pick what to include and what to omit. This sequel doesn’t quite reach the level hit by the incredible 2017 film but it’s still a great horror sequel where director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman pull off a thrilling conclusion to the It story despite the difficulty posed in doing so.
The story kicks off in a way that is very intriguing but also doesn’t find its footing until a good hour into it. The pacing is off initially as it jumps around a lot and tries to re-instil the fact that Pennywise is back to terrorise the Losers. There is some tension that is introduced early and there is definitely an ominous tone, but it dips in and out for the first act until the threat becomes more consistent. From there though, the remaining runtime of almost two hours is smooth sailing as the story continues to ramp up to a big emotional and impactful finale. It takes many turns you don’t expect and does its best to keep you on your toes.
It makes for a great conclusion to the story that cleverly integrates the younger cast of characters for more scenes exploring their childhood. The links between the adult stories and young stories are strong throughout the entire film and they bring so much more meaning and emotion to each character arc. All of the main characters have their own personal arcs, all of which are engaging, and all of which close out with a strong satisfying ending. There’s one character’s arc, I won’t talk about here, that is very cleverly integrated to the story which could have just as easily been omitted.
One thing that makes the integration and transition of the young cast to adult cast so seamless is the cast introduced in this sequel. Whoever did the casting for this film deserves plenty of credit because the correlation between the respective casts is spot on, not only in terms of the personalities and mannerisms, but also with some of the appearances. It’s amazing how easy it was to know who you were watching at each time. Even if the film didn’t remind you with clever transitions into the past it would still be an easy task due to how closely the actors match the personalities of their younger counterparts.
The incredible lead cast is made up of James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), Bill Hader (Richie), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), Jay Ryan (Ben), James Ransone (Eddie) and Andy Bean (Stanley). What is so great about this crew is that they exhibit the same level of chemistry that their younger counterparts did in the previous film. They really do feel like a united group and it helps in keeping you engaged in the story as you don’t have any issue getting past the fact that they’re just actors. It’s hard to say who stands out because no-one really does. It’s a great ensemble cast that all contribute in their own unique way, but if I needed to pick one, it would undoubtedly be Bill Hader.
When it comes to the humour, everyone has their moments, but Bill Hader and James Ransone deliver the majority of the comedy just as their younger counterparts did in the previous film. Not every joke hit, but the two of them garnered a number of big laughs regularly. Bill Hader is consistently hilarious but also manages to delve into the more serious and emotional parts of the story just as easily. The is one gag in the film where a certain popular song starts playing randomly for a solid 5 seconds and it’s very jarring. I still do not understand why it was included as it isn’t remotely funny and doesn’t make any sense… it’s just very confusing.
Obviously, what everyone wants from a horror film are the scares, and It Chapter Two delivers with more scares this time around as Pennywise goes to greater lengths to mess with these adults. Where the first film sat very much in the realm of atmospheric horror, this one goes for some more traditional scares but doesn’t forget the techniques that made it successful the first time around. Director Andy Muschietti plays off of some the scares from the previous film and makes some effective and original choices in how to present and film some of the forms It takes. There’s a lot of close ups so expect to spend a lot of ‘up close and personal’ time with the demon of Derry.
I spoke about the great ensemble before, but need to mention the other great ensemble in the younger cast who still have a very prominent role in this film. Having them appear regularly works great for the story and also leads to some great character moments and comedic moments throughout. You also have the wonderful Bill Skarsgård who proves once again that he’s the perfect choice to portray Pennywise. There’s a deeply menacing aura surrounding him every time he’s on screen and that never goes away.
In the end, It Chapter Two is a satisfying conclusion to the It story despite not being able to completely live up to the story set up before it. As I mentioned off the top, this adult portion is a difficult story to tell but they’ve pulled it off just about as well as I think you could. There’s ample scares, ample comedy, great performances, great character arcs and it’s overall a thrilling and engaging story. Once you get past the first hour or so any issues smooth out and it pays off in spades. Fans of the last film will no doubt love this entry as it ties up the story in the best way it could.