“It: Chapter Two” is the long-anticipated sequel to the 2017 blockbuster horror film “It.” Set 27 years after the original, “It: Chapter Two” follows The Losers’ Club as adults who reunite in their hometown of Derry, ME in order to finally kill the murderous, child-eating clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).
When I saw “It” in theaters, I initially thought it was an average movie that was overhyped. Two years later, I rewatched the first “It” in preparation for the sequel and thankfully liked it more. After seeing “Chapter Two” on Friday, I can definitely understand why it’s dividing critics.
Since I want to start this review on a positive note, I will say that director Andy Muschietti—with the help of his trusty film crew—once again succeeds on the technical front. In fact, “Chapter Two” is more filmmaker driven than its predecessor in some regards because it features tons of severed limbs, mutilated children and Stephen King horror. Although I haven’t read the book, this view is consistent with popular conception.
Checco Varese replaces Chung-hoon Chung as the cinematographer in “It: Chapter Two.” His work here is impressive but lacks many camera movements and editing that helped make the first “It” so scary. Nonetheless, Muschietti’s framing as well as the stellar production design benefit the sequel’s chilling atmosphere carried over from its predecessor.
Conversely, the scares are not quite as good in “Chapter Two.” The first “It” has these unnerving jump scares that viewers anxiously wait for due to the intense build up. Those sorts of scenes are still in “Chapter Two” but I noticed its larger reliance on predictable and obnoxious jump scares that have long plagued modern horror. This is a shame because the tension-fueled jump scares helped set the first “It” apart from many of its contemporaries.
Fortunately, most of the characters in “Chapter Two” are great. The Losers’ Club as adults is made up of both well-known and lesser known actors, in addition to the younger actors in flashbacks. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are of course great, but the true standout is Bill Hader as Ritchie Tozier. He brings that same comedic personality that Finn Wolfhard brought in the first “It” while also excelling in more emotional moments. After his HBO show “Barry” and this film, I’m excited to see Hader take on more dramatic roles in the future.
In terms of lesser known actors, James Ransone as germaphobe Eddie Kasbrak gives my close-to-second favorite performance in the whole film. He looks and behaves exactly like Eddie would 27 years later and his back-and-forth with Ritchie is somehow still convincing. Adults throwing “your mom” jokes at each other should not be this endearing.
Isaiah Mustafa, best known for playing “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” in Old Spice commercials, plays the older version of Mike Hanlon. As the only Loser who hasn’t left Derry, Mike calls his friends into action and researches how to kill Pennywise. In the first “It,” Chosen Jacobs played Mike, and he had way less material to work with than his co-stars. I am happy to say that Mustafa’s Mike brought a new side to the character, and he is now one of my favorite characters in “Chapter Two.”
Of course, I can’t keep talking about the characters of an “It” movie without also discussing the clown in the room. Skarsgård is still phenomenal as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, or “It” in its true form. This monstrous creature is truly the Freddy Krueger of the modern age. It is omnipotent as a demonic entity yet is also smart in that it knows how to manifest into its victims’ fears before consuming them. The titular antagonist takes great pleasure in tormenting and butchering its victims, further embracing its clown persona. As someone who is yet to watch the 1990 miniseries, I honestly can’t see anyone besides Skarsgård portray It.
The one character that disappointed me was Henry Bowers. Actor Teach Grant is terrific as the older version of this deranged lunatic who terrorized the Losers’ Club along with Pennywise. However, the movie doesn’t give him much to do outside of serve as a jump scare every now and then. Why is Bowers in the sequel if he doesn’t contribute to the film?
Considering that the first “It” dragged toward the end, making the sequel 34 minutes longer definitely hurts its pacing. I was never bored during the movie, but a nearly three-hour-long feature film should captivate me rather than make me look at my watch. It doesn’t help that this movie features interesting ideas but failed to execute them well, such as the lackluster humor and most of the second act.
Fans of “It: Chapter One” will at least be happy to know that “It: Chapter Two” expands on the themes and messages of its predecessor. “Chapter One” is about growing up and coming together with friends to face fears while “Chapter Two” is about confronting the past to embrace the future. Even if the emotional core isn’t as strong in the sequel, this heart is what separates both “It” movies from the crop of mainstream horror films.
“It: Chapter Two,” disappointed me in many ways. The performances and entertainment value made it watchable but the unnecessarily long runtime deters me from rewatching it.