When “IT: Chapter One” hit theaters in 2017, the game was changed forever. Never before had an R-rated horror movie broken so many box office records, garnered such great critical and audience acclaim, and influenced pop culture in the way that the first “IT” film did.
The only other horror film to even come close to having the same effect “IT” did came out 40 years earlier in the form of “The Exorcist.” Even then, “IT” almost doubled the box office intake of “The Exorcist.”
You would be hard-pressed to find any moviegoer now who is unfamiliar with Pennywise.
With that being said, “IT: Chapter Two” had some clown shoes to fill.
“IT: Chapter Two” tells the tale of the members of the losers club 27 years after they originally defeated Pennywise.
Mike, the only member of the club who has stayed in the small town of Derry, notices strange and grisly murders which have the fingerprints of one freaky dancing clown all over them and calls up each of the members to remind them of their oath to come back if IT ever did.
Bill, Richie, Eddie, Beverly, Ben and Stan, after remembering their oath, return to Derry.
Friendships that had all but been forgotten over the course of 27 years are now all that stand in the path of Pennywise, and the losers must remember the qualities that enabled them to overcome such evil over a quarter of a century ago.
There are many aspects of this film that deserve praise.
The casting department did a tremendous job finding adult actors who look like the original children, and who are able to translate all of the mannerisms from their character’s childhood into adulthood.
Though there are too many worthy names to mention in a short review, Bill Skarsgård, Bill Hader, James Ransone, Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are clearly standouts in their performances as IT, Richie, Eddie, Beverly and Bill, respectively.
Hader’s performance adds considerable depth to his character, grounding parts of the film that might seem superficial in tangible emotion.
Director Andy Muschietti returns to helm the second half of Stephen King’s terrifying story and brings the stylistic flair that made the first film so popular to new heights in many respects.
The artistic style of this film is much in keeping with the style established by the first installment. Muschietti continues to hide what ought to be hidden and allows for the audience to almost touch the atmosphere of the film.
The camera direction is breathtaking in many sequences, and the film’s production crew deserves full praise for building seamless and beautiful scene transitions.
However, though the direction and style of the film are often similar to its predecessor, the substance of the story is not. The first film forced you, as a member of the audience, to view terrifying events through the eyes of children.
Save a few instances in this film, the substance of the fear and anticipation you feel is much more mature, resulting in a much less frightening installment than the first.
We simply do not feel fear through adults in the same way that we feel fear through children.
In the place of a fearful atmosphere, the film attempts to create an aura of dark intensity, gripping the audience by showing gruesome events in their entirety. Some of these scenes are very hard for the average viewer to take in without looking away.
Right from the opening scene, “IT: Chapter Two” establishes that it certainly deserves its R-rating and is not for the faint of heart.
However, where the first film was a very solid viewing experience with superb pacing, the sequel suffers from a disease common in filmmaking — there simply is too much going on.
Certain parts of the film feel either very drawn out or very choppy, both from having incredibly complex source material and trying to stuff all of that complexity into one film.
On the whole, the film’s pacing mostly works, but expect some scenes to leave you confused from either too little or too much context.
In the end, “IT: Chapter Two” is a bit of a mixed bag. The film is excellently cast, acted, shot and directed. Most of the film’s problems stem from some weak writing towards the end of the second act and some odd editing decisions.
If you liked the first installment, you’ll certainly love this beautiful, but messy, addition to Stephen King cinema.