We all have painful memories from our childhoods that we’d rather forget. The fact you didn’t tell that girl how you felt about her; your inability to stand up to a bully, whether it was your abusive father or some kid at the arcade; that one time your little brother had his arm chewed off by a killer clown because you weren’t with him. Sometimes those things are so bad that we do forget. Twenty-seven years after the events of 2017’s It, the Losers' Club is back to remember what happened in 1989, to try to come to terms with their regrets and maybe even to kill that evil clown. Director Andy Muschietti returns for this conclusion and though not quite as good as the first chapter, It Chapter Two is filled with effective scares and is both a mostly faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel and a fitting conclusion to the two-part series.
Like its predecessor, It Chapter Two benefits from a strong cast of leads including Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough and especially Bill Hader as Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier. Hader has a surprising gift for dark drama punctuated by comic relief. (If you haven’t checked out his HBO series Barry, do yourself a favor and binge the first two seasons immediately.) On the other hand, New Zealand actor Jay Ryan is the weakest link as fat-kid-turned-hunk Ben Hanscom. He seems out of place amid the strong ensemble, and Ben’s chemistry with Bev is unconvincing.
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The film looks fantastic, with convincing special effects and truly terrifying manifestations of the titular baddie, especially some jump-scares with the old lady living in Bev’s old home and the spider-legged Stanley head, a clear homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). King has a way with personifying and objectifying—or rather clownifying and monsterifying—one’s deepest darkest fears, and Muschietti has a good time translating King’s imagery to the big screen. It must be rough trying to put something like the Ritual of Chüd on film, but the filmmakers mostly make good decisions. (Thank goodness they didn’t attempt the talking turtle Mataurin!)
It Chapter Two does run long at almost three hours; the funhouse scene, though an impressive use of practical effects, is unnecessary and the final act is the Longest. Boss Fight. Ever. Still, it beats the 1990 miniseries by a mile and with It makes for a fine King adaptation.