IT: Chapter 2, the uneven continuation of Andy Muschietti’s well-received 2017 Stephen King adaptation, opens with a brutal hate crime against a gay couple (Xavier Dolan and Taylor Frey). Inspired by the real-life murder of Charlie Howard in King’s hometown, it’s a nasty and effective tone-setter that communicates evil is alive and well, in human form, and we’re about to tread darker territory than before.
Twenty-seven years have passed since the climax of the first chapter, where The Losers Club seemingly defeated Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a sewer-dwelling, kid-killing clown. Now adults, they’ve gone their separate ways until a phone call from Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the sole member still residing in the fictional town of Derry, summons them home to confront “It” again.
Considering the film clocks in at nearly three hours, Muschietti spends surprisingly scant time explaining who these people have become since we last saw them. After a few superficial character reintroductions, the gang reunites for their first meal together in decades, and here’s precisely where things start to break down. The tone becomes increasingly erratic as the weird chemistry of the Adult Losers reunion starts to clash with the dead-serious horror plot. To be fair, there’s practically no way to balance seven main characters fighting a shape-shifting monster in two different timelines without being just a tad bit messy.
The second act brings the energy to a near standstill by separating the gang and sending them on a sort of vision quest. In order to move forward, the characters have to go backwards and battle their own personal demons, eventually leading to a big lesson about strength in unity. It’s one of the more resonant themes in King’s novel, and a rare instance where he favours the collective over the individual, but on film, the whole thing simply takes too damn long to happen. Muschietti regains some footing as the story enters its dazzling third-act showdown, serving a platter of truly horrifying visuals that more than make up for some shoddy CGI in earlier scenes.
Gripes aside, there’s plenty to enjoy and admire in IT: Chapter 2. Hollywood doesn’t make many big, expensive horror projects these days, so it’s a treat to see just how good the genre can look with 70+ million dollars. You could also argue that a film about joining forces with your friends to murder an evil clown is just the type of cathartic fantasy America needs as it heads into 2020.
IT: Chapter 2 | Directed by Andy Muschietti (US, 2019), with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Skarsgård. Starts Sep 5.
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.