Chris Patiño, Contributor
Sept. 9, 2019
A story is only as good as its ending, right? That’s what we’re about to find out with director Andy Muschietti’s second and final chapter of Stephen King’s horror saga, “IT.” With an all-star ensemble cast including Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader and James McAvoy, the Losers Club reunites after 27 years to once again face off against Pennywise, the child-eating clown terrorizing the town of Derry.
To say that the filmmakers had a high bar to clear is an understatement. The first “IT” was a critically acclaimed crowd pleaser that shattered box office records. With Muschietti returning as director and a crazy talented cast, expectations were high. The result is…a bit of a mixed bag.
Now, the things that work in this movie work really well. The opening scene is pitch perfect, getting us right back into the fold while also establishing the film’s brutal tone. The film’s scares come hard and fast and don’t shy away one bit from the story’s twisted nature.
This installment not only has the difficult task of juggling seven leads, but also has to reestablish them now as grown-ups. It manages to do so in near seamless fashion, providing reintroductions that are quick, but not rushed, clearly establishing the Losers’ adult lives. This cast absolutely shines. Each actor seems so natural in her part that it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling her shoes. But it’s Bill Hader who steals the show as trash-mouth Richie Tozier. The SNL alumnus assuredly delivers on the comedy, but it’s the heart and empathy he brings to the character that makes his performance stand-out and sets up Hader as a powerhouse dramatic performer to keep your eye on.
But the undeniable MVP here is Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise. Skarsgård’s performance oozes with ghoulish delight; you’ll relish every second this maniacal clown is on-screen serenading his victims with laughs and a balloon.
However, not all is well in Derry. Certain elements either fall short or don’t come together neatly. With a two hour and 49-minute runtime, there is a lot of story to pack in and the movie isn’t entirely able to shoulder the weight of its ambition. While it’s never boring, the film does feel unfocused at times. And although I felt the filmmakers did a fine job condensing King’s thousand-plus page odyssey, there are some rich elements from the novel that are either brushed over quickly or are dropped entirely.
While not as refined as the original, “IT Chapter 2” still works as a solid work of horror filmmaking, serving up a creepy atmosphere layered with disturbing visuals and some great creature effects, all anchored by a terrific cast, resonant themes and a poignant ending.
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