It Chapter Two review Bill Hader Jessica Chastain James Ransone Isaiah Mustafa James McAvoy

Year: 2019
Director(s): Andy Muschietti
Writer(s): Gary Dauberman
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: R
Color, 169 mins

Synopsis: Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with Pennywise, a devastating phone call brings them back. (Source)

Andy Muschietti’s It was the right film at the right time. Just as Stranger Things’ nostalgia porn was starting to get stale, It allowed Stephen King’s heavily aped source material to shine. Muschietti’s initial outing was a timeless coming-of-age tale that was touching, full of charm, and most importantly scary. Returning to complete the story, It Chapter Two stumbles from structural issues, but retains the emotional hooks and stylish horror that its predecessor laid the foundation for. Now, with an even bigger budget, this final chapter capitalizes on the epic cosmic horror only previously hinted at. It’s also backed by an incredible ensemble that keeps us glued to the screen. 

27 years after the events in the first chapter, the Losers club have settled into their adult years. Scattered across the globe, every member of the group has left small town Derry. Peculiarly, they hardly remember their childhood, until it comes calling in the form of a phone call from one of their own, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa). Mike never left Derry and has been busy learning about the demonic entity they fought as a child, Pennywise. After a savage murder hints at Pennywise’s return, Mike takes the Losers up on a pact – one that promised they’d return to finish the fight if he ever showed up again. Mike reunites Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stanley (Andy Bean). Once together, they confront the traumas they ran away from and race to complete a ritual that could stop Pennywise for good. 

By all accounts, Muschietti’s conclusion isn’t a bad one. The cast is incredible and the obviously bigger budget is used to deliver a myriad of showstopping monsters and nightmares. Ultimately, there’s also too much story for it to all flow properly. Each scene is amazing on its own. Muschietti’s direction is confident, slick and stylish. But the pacing is more in line with a good television show, rather than a film. What would’ve been fine in episodic chunks instead feels like a compressed, overstuffed experience. It absolutely builds to an amazing climax, but it also feels laborious and unwieldy at times. To Muschietti’s credit, the first film’s formulaic jump scares are replaced with deeper, character based jolts and set pieces. They’re all amazing and place the horror at a more personal level, but they also don’t feel as impactful when spread out and dolled out in starts and stops. 

It Chapter Two review Bill Skarsgard

The performance front is strong. Aided again from the young counterparts from Chapter One, the grown up cast doesn’t skip a beat. From an initial reunion at a Chinese restaurant to an all-in battle, the ensemble is infectious and powerful. Each performer carries their own weight, adding humor, passion and empathy to an unflinchingly dark story. Some of the characters feel a bit underused this time out, but given what they have to work with, everyone brings 200%. Standouts are James Ransone, Bill Hader and Isaiah Mustafa, each of whom navigate some dense, emotional material. Not to be underrated, Bill Skarsgard gives the evil Pennywise a playfully sinister edge. He transcends the makeup and CGI to solidify an all-time horror icon.

It Chapter Two still floats even if it doesn’t feel like a home run. The relationship between past and present feels taxing instead of impactful, but then again, it all culminates in a showdown that’s absolutely worth the price of admission. On one end, this is big, bold and extremely weird horror spectacle that also manages to place its importance on character. Part of me just wishes it was an even more fleshed out mini series. Still, in its current form, it’s a risky rarity amidst big studio horror, and there’s a lot for genre and King fans to sink their teeth into.