Something stinks in the sewers of Derry as the horror of Stephen King’s It once again floats to the surface of our imaginations. Following in the giant clown shoes of 2017’s It Chapter One, Andy Muschietti is back with the concluding part of the circus-fearing horror.
For anyone who’s read King’s 1986 novel, they’ll know It Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the first movie. While the original cast of Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, and Sophie Lillis all return, they’re also joined by a who’s who of stars as the adult Losers Club.
James McAvoy is fresh from his Dark Phoenix and Split fame to lead the group as Bill Denborough. Soap star Jay Ryan has the honour of being the Losers’ ugly duckling and portrays a much hunkier Ben Hanscom. An easy highlight of the ensemble is Bill Hader as Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier. Taking the reins from Stranger Things‘ Wolfhard, Hader cashes in on his comedy roots from movies like Superbad, while also adding a more serious twist.
Speaking of twists, Muschietti diverts from the source material to give Richie an unexpected love interest. Even if this was implied in King’s novel, it plays out in a completely unique (and equally tragic) way.
Elsewhere, Jessica Chastain is a doppelganger for Lillis and excels as Beverly Marsh. The scene where Bev revisits her childhood home and faces “Mrs. Kersh” will have viewers on the edge of their seats. With Beverly serving as the lone girl of the group, Bill and Ben both battle for her affections.
The Chapter One cast are cleverly interspersed with the newcomers, meaning the screen time is shared between both iterations of the Losers Club. There’s also a pretty great cameo from King himself. Lurking in the backstreets of Derry, King stands out from the crowd as the sinister owner of a second-hand store.
Sadly, things aren’t so great for Bill Skarsgård. Reprising his role as the unnerving harlequin, Skarsgård is definitely underused in the sequel. As the Losers take centre stage, Pennywise is relegated to the caverns beneath the town. Isn’t that what it’s all about though? In It Chapter Two, it isn’t Pennywise that is the Losers’ biggest fear, but the ghosts of their past — be it homophobia, germs, or your weight.
Pennywise’s appearances are fleeting as the Losers face their biggest fears — be it Hobo the Leper, the doomed Georgie, or the ghost of poor Stanley. Straying a little too often into the realms of a comedy movie, it’s a stretch to call It Chapter Two a horror movie. With Evil Dead-inspired vomit and cute Pomeranians, Muschietti treads a fine line between gore and guffaws.
Another bugbear of It Chapter Two is the elongated runtime. Clocking in at a mammoth 169 minutes, it’s officially one of the longest-running horror films of all time. There’s plenty packed into the story, but there are times It Chapter Two feels a bit like one of the bloated corpses that dwells beneath Derry.
The ending is about as outlandish as they come. Watching Pennywise transform into a giant CGI spider looks like it’s a level pulled from an old Harry Potter PC game, but remains relatively faithful to King’s book. There’s only so much you can do with the source material.
Ironically, it all ties together with the joke that Bill Denbrough can’t write a good ending to his books. Well, at least Muschietti’s ending is better than the Tim Curry-led one from the 1990 mini-series.
Neatly, the movie’s emotional finale also sets the pieces in play for a third outing. Only recently, Muschietti revealed he could return for another movie. It Chapter Two ends with Isiah Mustafa’s Mike Hanlon closing (quite literally) the book on Branson Buddinger’s A History of Old Derry.
There’s clearly plenty of mythology to explore, but the question is, when does the stench of Derry’s victims become too much for fans to handle?
[Featured Image: Warner Bros.]