Film review by Jason Day of It Chapter Two, the sequel to the 2017 horror about a shapeshifting monster clown, who awakens after 27 years to terrorise a town in Maine. Starring Jessica Chastain.
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27 years after the murderous clown It nearly devoured them, the now grown up ‘Losers’ of 1990’s Derry in the state of Maine have moved out of their home town and forgotten about the horrors of their youth.
When a series of disappearances and deaths occur, the adult Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) reassembles the ‘Losers’ to defeat the monster he knows has returned after 27 years of sleep.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Director Andy Muschietti returns for a second stab at Stephen King’s classic horror about the terrifying circus clown Pennywise.
Clearly his blood is up as he manages to whack on an extra 34 minutes of running time, with no overall increase in quality, for a hugely self-indulgent effort. The total duration is just under three hours but what new things, what added value does the viewer get for their multiplex dollar to sit through such a lot of worrying grotesquery?
Adults and children merrily gobbled up, freaky homunculus pop out of fortune cookies, naked octogenarian’s run around whilst making tea, drug-induced hallucinatory episodes, clowns turn into spiders in dingy grottos and all told with a soupcon of ghoulish humour.
Is It Chapter Two a seriously messed up comedy? Perhaps I’ve mis-categorised it for as a horror it doesn’t really scare. It is gross, strange and occasionally shocking, but never really scary. A group of people sat behind me in the cinema chuckled throughout, even at the shock and awe moments – weird I thought at first. Looking back the day after, very weird.
The self-indulgence extends to the supporting case. Author King has a cameo – quite a lengthy one, but then the director has given himself a wide canvas to work on – as a crotchety second-hand shop man, but we also have real-life movie director Peter Bogdanovich as a movie director called – you’ve guessed it – Peter.
You can see Muschietti ‘s influences throughout, but it’s a fine line between homage and rip-off, especially when one nods toward the much admired John Carpenter sci-fi The Thing (1982).
A character’s head rolls off its body, sprouts legs, antenna-like eyes and scuttles around attacking everyone, as a suitably astonished character says “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding!” – exactly as happens in one scene in Carpenter’s superior film.
At least we get a brilliant adult cast who perfectly reflect and add to the stunning turns from the child actors, all returning from part one and the only reason that film was actually worth watching. They all create believable – and very foul mouthed – characters. As an ensemble they work exactly as their characters do – as a team they survive.
If I were to single out one as slightly better it would be Finn Wolfhard (young Ritchie/Bill Hader as an adult) and you find out in this film why he has such aggressive and frequently anti-gay outbursts.
Surprisingly, top-flight stars Chastain and McAvoy are in the leads. You’d think they are slumming it for a meaty paycheck, but they show the same commitment as their younger counterparts. If I were pushed to pick one over the rest, it would be James Ransome as the older Eddie.
But no matter how hard the adults try Skarsgard more than anything else provides that value for money, unsettling and disturbingly good as Pennywise. We are given It’s back-story here, in all of It’s many, blood-curdling forms and you’d think this would add to the unnecessarily long duration, but these scenes are dispensed with in such rapid manner they hardly register. Which is a shame because they are the only interesting parts of the story.
It, you see, has been on this planet for millions of year and has been following and eating the humans who walk through or inhabit Derry, Maine for a very long time.
Almost as long as this film, then.
Perhaps the most unsettling thing – at least for me, as a gay man – is the casual homophobia in these films. The word faggot is repeated so many times that eventually the word doesn’t register as much (now, there is one way to keep these movies shorter – just cut that word from the script).
Yes, part of the film is set nearly 30 years ago, its use was more casual then and one character’s repetition of it is used to mask something deep and hidden about himself, but for me it really was overdone.
But the opening homophobic assault is orchestrated as an orgy of destruction – of an attractive gay man’s face – before he is dumped into a river, it chilled me more than the horrors that lay in wait. Sometimes, humans are more evil to humans than the most terrifying of creatures.
And sadly, given the rise of hate crime on members of the LGBT community, it’s the only part of the film that has any relevancy to the real world.
Cast & credits
Director: Andy Muschietti. 2hrs 49mins/169mins. KatzSmith Productions/Lin Pictures/New Line Cinema/Rideback/Vertigo Entertainment/Warner Bros. (15)
Producers: Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Barbara Muschietti.
Writer: Gary Dauberman.
Camera: Checco Varese.
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch.
Sets: Paul D. Austerberry.
Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor.