Movie Review: ‘It – Chapter 2’

Director: Anthony Muschietti

Cast: James McAvoy, Jaeden Martell, Jessica Chastain, Shophia Lillis, Jay Ryan, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Bill Hader, Finn Wolfhard, Isaiah Mustafa, Chosen Jacobs, James Ransone, Jack Dylan Grazer, Andy Bean, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård, Javier Botet

Plot: When the evil influence of the entity Pennywise re-emerges in the town of Derry after 27 years, Mike Hanlon contacts the Loser’s Club to reunite and face their fears once more.

Review: It’s not often that a grotesque horror film, a story known for how many people can’t watch it out of fear, becomes one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Muschietti’s first chapter was a surprise smash hit, only revealing the planned second part at the close. As a big cast became attached, interest in the film blew up. And now it’s here we can see how it measures up.

Easily the strongest part of the film comes in the form of the cast. McAvoy, Chastain, Ryan, Hader, Mustafa, Ransone and Bean take up the roles of Bill, Beverly, Ben, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stanley respectively and they provide much more than a physical resemblance to their counterparts. It feels as though they two cast members playing each of the main roles worked closely together to provide cohesion between the time periods. Each performance from the adults showcases perfectly mimicked facial tics and body language. More than anything else it’s the cast that makes this two-part horror epic work. Bill Skarsgård just keeps doing his thing…he did bloody well the first time so we are just fine with that.

So that’s all good. The story, on the other hand, is iffy.

During the first part of the story we were introduced to the Loser’s Club and their encounters with Pennywise individually before they all came together for the confrontation with the evil clown. When the second movie begins the friends have grown apart and forgotten what happened to them, with Mike bringing them all back to Derry before much time passes. What feels shonky is that the cast all split off on their own mini-adventures only to reunite for another confrontation, meaning that the characters who we’ve seen come together out on their own.

Having their own mini-arc would be fine if it doesn’t then happen again during the third act. To put it in simpler terms, we start with them apart, they come together, they split up and then come together and then…they split up and come back together again. When you have a really good cast like this we want to see them interact with each other. For all the work they put into connecting these films together they really dropped the ball on making these feel like an ensemble piece instead of a collection of shorts.

Pennywise, with his ability to change form, appears in a couple of creature shapes throughout the film. Some criticised the first film for the use of jerky CGI. This didn’t bother us all that much, but it did this time around as the monsters sometimes appear to have come from a rushed or poorly rendered effect. This is most jarring following the scene featured in the trailers wherein Beverly visits her old home and meets the old lady now living there. After an excellent build up to Beverly realising that the lady is Pennywise in disguise we get a big, CGI old lady monster that looks downright terrible. Most of the creatures are good, but the ones that aren’t stand out like a malformed thumb. Shout out to Javier Botet, who returns as Pennywise’s leper form and is always awesome.

This is the weaker of the two parts of this series, that’s without a doubt. It’s not as scary and it’s hard to reinvest in the older characters. But it’s not without value. Bill Hader and the older, erratic Ritchie is surprisingly the most interesting performance in the film. Most of the characters feel less complex than their child counterparts, but Ritchie is more interesting this time. Skarsgård is a great once again, seemingly slipping into the other-wordly monster role like it’s a comfortable pair of pants. Surprisingly his most unsettling moment comes when he appears as a human for the first and only time. We’re also glad that Mike regained his role as the Derry historian, although it makes it weirder that they gave this role to Ben in the first place.

Not the mind-numbing conclusion that we hoped for, but decent enough. Good cast, good performances, sloppy script. We erred on the score, but added an extra point for Skarsgård and Hader.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN