Directed by Andy Muschietti, the supernatural horror film It Chapter Two has finally hit cinemas and I couldn’t be more excited to see how it ends. I read that the movie runs for 2 hours and 50 minutes so for those interested, be prepared.

In this film that’s based on Stephen King’s novel, 27 years have passed so the Loser Club kids are all grown up and most have moved out of Derry to live their lives. The sequel stars James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean. The teen actors from the 2017 It film also make their appearance in this one, though the bulk of the story focuses on how they’ve come back to Derry to destroy It after it has started killing again. Bill Skarsgård also reprised his role as the nightmarish Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

Skarsgård once again impresses with his portrayal of the monster. The main cast do too, especially Hader and his chemistry with Ransone. Overall, the movie was less of a horror flick and more of a melancholic one that emphasises the power of friendship and social support when facing scary issues such as childhood trauma. But that’s not saying that It Chapter Two didn’t have any terrifying moments because it certainly does. It’s just that the other elements and its running jokes (still enjoy them though!) tend to quickly dampen the effects of the scary scenes after they just happen, despite them successfully sending chills down my spine.

Warning: some spoilers ahead.

The plot

After 27 years of peace in Derry, It starts killing again and this forces Mike Hanlon (Mustafa), the only one of the Losers Club to stay living there, to call the rest of the gang to come back and stop It. Because they made the promise to do just that when they were kids back in the It film, they agree to return to Derry immediately. Though they are all reluctant and scared at the thought of Derry, none of them seem to know or remember why. So at their reunion, Mike reminds them of their traumatic past, bringing them to the childhood places they used to go.

In order to stop It once and for all, the friends have to perform the Ritual of Chüd to know the true identity of the monster. All they need is an artifact from their childhood, which means they’ll each need to literally and figuratively revisit their past on their own. The movie comes to its epic conclusion when they finally face It together as a group in an ultimate showdown.

The takeaway

The movie’s horror elements are mostly well set up, though I favour the scenes where It takes on the form of Pennywise a lot more than of Hobo and The Witch. Skarsgård’s performance as the evil clown is just amazingly terrifying. He has honestly made that character for me. I just can no longer see anyone else as Pennywise, sorry Tim Curry!

My favourite Pennywise moments include the one with the little girl at the baseball game and the maze scene with the skater boy. The former has him acting all sad and lonely just to trick and lure the poor girl to approach him so that he can kill her. The latter shows his more vicious side as he repeatedly knocks the heck out of the glass wall with his forehead before finally breaking it and gobbling up the terrified kid in front of the already traumatised Bill.

The whole setup of the two scenes, the overall atmosphere and the acting from everyone involved — all brilliantly done.

Besides Skarsgård, Hader is the other standout. This honestly surprises me because I wasn’t expecting this amount of really good dramatic acting from the comedian. I thought he really made the Richie character a very interesting one, which is different from the one portrayed in the original It films. Richie is known as the loud-mouth joker but with Hader, he’s become a lot more complexed than that.

Which is why when Pennywise reveals his secret during the fear scenes, I was shocked. I totally didn’t see that coming, even though it was quickly hinted in an earlier scene. And that makes the film all the more emotional in the end.

*MAJOR SPOILER*

CinemaBlend talked with Muschietti about how the film uses Richie’s sense of humour as a a much deeper personality trait than showed before. Richie’s inappropriate jokes actually turn out to be a defence mechanism to hide the fact that he’s gay. This is a topic that the movie explores through Richie and in the opening scene where a gay couple gets bullied by a group of guys before one of them gets thrown over the bridge and eaten by Pennywise.

And of course, Pennywise knows Richie’s secret so he threatens to reveal it in a public space. This is also another great scene as you can see the people around them all frozen with their slack jaws. Very creepy. And it was in broad daylight, for goodness sake! Poor Richie…

But things only get worse for him. During the group’s final showdown with Pennywise, Richie bravely charged at Pennywise who quickly put him in a trance (like the townspeople earlier). His best friend and favourite guy to pick on, Eddie, comes to his aid by throwing the arrow through Pennywise’s open mouth to stop the trance. It works and Richie falls to the ground, unconscious. Eddie moves over to him to wake him up and just as Richie opens his eyes, Pennywise stabs Eddie in the back with his giant leg. Eddie eventually bleeds out and dies. In a very emotional scene later, the friends jump into the water to clean themselves after the battle. They take turns recalling ‘what would Eddie say’ before Richie breaks down in tears for the second time, mourning the loss of his best friend and….. wait for it…. childhood crush!

Yep, looks like Richie has had a crush on Eddie the whole time and no one knows about it. For all their many moments of squabbling and the actors’ chemistry in their amusing exchanges, Richie really grows to become the one character that stands out from the rest of the gang. The movie does a wonderful job setting up for the revelation of this character secret, making that final scene completely heartbreaking and the ending bittersweet.

I really enjoy the movie’s interpretations of the fear theme. Each one given to the characters are very well executed and true to their past and identity. I love the scene where Bill faces his younger self, a symbolism of facing your own past to deal with your childhood trauma. And how Eddie’s death represents people who suffer or die while dealing with the trauma and the survivors represent hope for those who are dealing with it and need support. The ending was beautifully wrapped up with voice-over narration by all characters (I think) that gives the film a melancholic feeling.

But I still feel that some of the fear scenes could have been played out more, especially for Ben Hanscom (Ryan) and Mike. Though not fear related, same goes to the development between Beverly Marsh (Chastain) and Ben, and the Ritual of Chüd too. It was quite touch and go for them.

Overall, I’d recommend It fans to watch this second chapter film. While it isn’t as scary as it could have been, it still has really good horror scenes, great performances by particularly Hader and Skarsgård, and a satsifying ending.

TL;DR

The Good
– The two Bills, Hader and Skarsgård, give standout performances of their characters Richie and Pennywise respectively.
– Has great horror scenes especially with Skarsgård as Pennywise
– The surprise cameo
– Richie’s major character development

The Bad
– Not enough horror overall
– Too touch and go for some of the characters’ fear scenes
– The running jokes come up too fast and too many in between scary scenes, detracting audience from successful horror effects