It Chapter Two Review : Far from a loser sequel

There’s a scene in ‘’It Chapter Two’’, where genre wordsmith Stephen King –  wrote the original novel – makes a rather curious cameo as an antiques dealer. The moment is equal parts eerie and amusing but mainly, unnecessary and a little too long.

And that essentially sums up the film on a whole too – while there’s a good lashing of scares and suspense to be had in Andy Muschietti’s sequel, as well as some occasional humour, there’s also a bit of air let out of the balloon due to the runtime.

There’s more padding here than on one of Kirstie Alley’s shoulders, Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman filling the screen with anything that moves or creaks, and then letting each scene play out about two minutes too long, in order to make a three-hour runtime.

Instead of a balloon, Pennywise needs to start carrying around a pair of scissors. A good hour or so of the film could’ve been cut and the film mightn’t even be better for it – it likely would’ve moved faster, done away with the superfluous and made us work for the Pennywise appearances.

27 years after they first did battle with evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the ‘Losers Club’ – as they’ve nicknamed themselves – return to Derry to pop his balloon once and for all. But this bunch – Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Ben (Jay Ryan) and Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) – have long since drifted apart from one another, and some would rather – understandably – hide not fight.

In between repairing friendships, sorting through romantic feelings, and warning the local kids about storm drains, the gang eventually team for the tussle with the supernatural sideshow act.

Christmas bonuses are in order for the casting director here with each older ‘Loser’ a flawlessly perfect ‘match’ for their younger counterpart. Besides the similar looks, the older actors have the mannerisms, the movements and the speaking patterns of their younger incarnations down pat – and then some. Not for a moment do you question that these aren’t the kids from the first pic.

The actors give it all, too – from Bill Hader’s likeable and delicate jester to Jessica Chastain’s scarred but plucky heroine and, of course, Skarsgard’s immersive turn as the numinously sadistic Pennywise, there’s some dynamite work on display here.

Yet, the visual effects crew too also shine bright. There’s some incredibly eyegasmic work here – from an impeccably effective Paul Bunyan statue that comes to life to a freaky spider-thing that wears a dead friend’s head, this is a killer demo reel for those that produced the movie magic.

While “It” (2017) was a tight piece of work that excelled in the suspense department, and used its scares and splatter sparingly, the sequel seems to drink from a different bubbler. More akin to a slightly sardonic horror piece from the Clinton-era, where suspense takes a backseat to jump scares and a grounded serious tone makes way for something a little more ironic, “Chapter Two” is less a sequel, more a standalone.  And as any ‘’Kill Bill’’ fan will attest, that’s not so much a bad thing as it is a notice to expect something a little different second time around.

“It Chapter Two” is still a superb few hours (well, two, anyway) of entertainment. The visual effects are gob-smackingly beautiful, the cast are wonderful – Bill Hader, the surprise MVP, with Jay Ryan also a welcome presence as Ben- and there’s a couple of killer scares here that even the most desensitized film fan will goosebump-up over.

Sure, it’s not the homerun the original was but “It Chapter Two” is still the best horror film of the year thus far – and considering the product that’s punched out each and every week of the ‘boo’ variety, that’s saying something.

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