Well, that’ll teach me to get my hopes up.
IT: Chapter 2 is the sequel to the 2017 horror about a child-eating clown. A film that is excellent when it’s being a charming kid-drama and annoying when it’s being a dull jump-scare fest. All in all, it was good enough to get me to read the billion-page book that it’s based on. A book I honestly believe I could have restarted and finished within the screening of the sequel.
Chapter 2 takes place 27 years after the first when all the characters, now grown-up, arrive back in their hometown of Derry to stop the re-emerged Pennywise once and for all.
To start off, I’ll mention what I liked. As was the case in the first film, the best things about Chapter 2 are the characters. Any scene that features the principle six kids/bigger kids chatting is hugely enjoyable. Bill Hader, in particular, does a stellar job as old Richie Tozier. He’s funny, relatable and heartbreaking within the course of a scene. Bill Skarsgård similarly does a chillingly creepy job as Pennywise ITself.
It’s when you glue the two together that the same problems start to arise from their 27-year slumber.
Anyone who regularly sits through me whinging about mainstream horror will know that I believe a good film scare come from fear of the unknown. Well, I didn’t know the runtime of this movie before I went in. And to be frank, the fact that it was nearly three-hours long was the scariest thing about the movie.
We’re scared when we don’t know why something is happening or what’s doing it. But in this case… we know it’s a clown (albeit an interdimensional alien one) and we know he does it to eat kids. We also know by this movie that the clown can shapeshift into any form that scares someone. So why would it be scary to see characters wander into weird and quirky situations when everyone in the audience knows full well that its the clown? The suspense was ripped from us two years ago when we saw the first one.
This is ignoring the fact that Pennywise’s tried and trusted method is the standard loud screeching soundtrack + 6 seconds of silence + Deafening Audio cue and rapid visual formula I’ve prattled about a million times.
And this movie doesn’t help itself. For some reason known only to the screenwriter, the middle chunk of the film consists of the exact same scene six times in a row with the principal character simply swapped out. Without spoiling anything, each character goes off alone on a mission within Derry. What follows is a sequence of structurally identical scenes where they encounter something unusual, they flashback to a scary childhood experience, they are then chased by Pennywise in whichever form he happens to be in.
(This chunk is also responsible for the unforgivable runtime of the movie).
There are points where the comedy can overshadow the horror. Fellow b**p writer James felt that the constant comic relief from not one but two of the main cast can relieve scares of any impact. Almost as if they got the mixture of scary and clown wrong in the cocktail.
Aside from that, there’s also the issue that the characters are all adults now and treating them like kids (like the script does) doesn’t fly. It’s acceptable that kids would be scared by certain things and not think clearly in the moment. I can’t accept it when they’ve got the face of 40-year-old James McAvoy. I mean… buy a gun mate. You’re in America, it’s not even hard.
All in all, it’s a messy, disappointing sequel that isn’t without merit by any means. As James puts it: Many of the scenes work individually but as a collective are let down by the lesser among them.
Rent it when it’s on iTunes for a movie night. At least then you can chat during the ‘scares’.