Pennywise returns to Derry : IT Chapter 2

Stephen King's IT Chapter 2 is in cinemas now.
Stephen King's IT Chapter 2 is in cinemas now.

IT – Chapter 2

Director – Andy Muschietti

Starring – Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgard

2017’s IT was hotly anticipated, with it being the remake of a much loved 90’s miniseries starring Tim Curry.

The original series hadn’t aged very well, looking slightly clunky and naff to the modern viewer, so it was one of the few times that it seemed like a remake was necessary in Hollywood, thrusting Pennywise the Clown to a new Millennial audience.

Expectation was high for the film but no one, even the most ambitious producer, could have expected the film’s level of success as IT was highly commended by critics and, more surprisingly, went on to become the highest grossing horror film in history. With such a huge mark left by the remake the pressure was on to ensure that the sequel lived up to gargantuan success of its predecessor, it’s fair to say that it doesn’t with IT Chapter 2 being a very strange film, full of peculiar choices.

Defeated by members of the Losers’ Club at the end of Chapter One, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the childhood friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon (Mustafa) calls the others home for one final stand. Damaged by scars from the past, the united Losers must conquer their deepest fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise - now more powerful than ever.

The most striking thing about this sequel is its focus on humour as opposed to horror. You at times would think you had mistakenly walked into the wrong screening. At first I thought these moments of levity were there to simply ease us into proceedings before all the expected unpleasantness began, but that never seems to come. It is always worrying for a horror film when its getting more laughs than gasps. The screening I went to had people chuckling constantly, unfortunately not at parts they should have been. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments that could be defined as “scary” but all the horror elements of the film seem cartoonish, with even some of the monster designs looking a bit ridiculous. There is one sequence with a demonic old woman and it ends up playing out like something from a cheap Goosebumps episode, farcically bad. The oddest thing is that this all seems like a deliberate choice by the filmmakers, bizarrely wanting to lighten up a series that’s original had some genuinely terrifying moments.

Some of the humour works, with the double act of Bill Hader and James Ransone generating lots of genuine laughs. Their performances are so good that you would want to see a buddy movie with them two alone. The only issue is that it is all very misplaced as you forget that you are supposed to be watching a film you thought was there to frighten you. The horror is an afterthought. Even our antagonist Pennywise is sort of left in the shadows, which is a good and bad thing. One of my main complaints about Chapter One was that he was on screen too much, ruining his mystique and scare factor so it is good to keep him off screen, but this time he is off screen so much that you forget about him for large portions of the movie, and when he does show up his scenes are slightly underwhelming and just rehashes of what he did in the 2017 release.

The film’s run time of 3 hours is also ridiculously self-indulgent as at least 45 minutes could have been lopped off to make a much more compact and serviceable film, the needless romance subplot could have easily been left on the cutting room floor.

What is bizarre though is that despite all my complaints of length and levity the film is still a lot of fun and has enough to keep you entertained. I went in expecting a horror film and got something very different. The film is a bit of a car crash but it has enough grand set pieces and ludicrousness to keep you watching. Don’t go in expecting to be scared though, IT will make a clown out of you.

THREE STARS