Two years ago, with IT (now I guess Chapter One), Andy Muschietti created a tight adventure movie that married elements of nostalgic 80s kids’ romps like The Goonies with a genuine sense of disquieting threat and fear laced throughout.
Now with IT Chapter Two the focus has shifted to the same characters, twenty-seven years later, as once again children are disappearing and mysterious events are occurring in their original hometown of Derry, Maine.
From the start it’s clear that Muschietti and his team want to be true to Stephen King’s original novel (it’s telling that King has a cameo as he often takes issue with filmed versions of his books) but this quickly leads to the first problem with the film — that it sets things up that look like they should pay off later (as they do in the book) but either fall flat (the return of Henry Bowers) or are left entirely unresolved (Bev’s abusive relationship with her husband).
Added to this there are moments where scenes feel like they are happening purely to pay off on the expectations of fans of the source material but that don’t really have any other reason to be there in the way they are and this really serves only to make the film longer than maybe it ultimately maybe needs to be.
As the film settles in and we focus on the main cast of characters back in Derry (and see it as a larger world than it was for their young counterparts, though it never quite becomes a character in its own right in the way it should) things do improve.
The second act may be somewhat episodic but it’s here we really start to get the inventive twists on the source that was part of what made Chapter One so good — this is highlighted by Bev’s (Jessica Chastain) flashback style encounter in her childhood home that combines some nicely visually off kilter moments with genuine horror.
It’s the visual horror that is really one of the film’s highlights as, almost from the off, it has a body horror and twisted sensibility that is suitably disturbing.
This begins with a great sequence as the Loser’s Club reunite in a Chinese restaurant in Derry but reaches its peak as they head back to the house on Neibolt Street and there’s a terrific scene that brings to mind The Thing, while also calling back to Chapter One.
The climax of the story, in the book very much at least as metaphorical as it is literal and physical, was always going to be something that required a serious level of adaptation.
Here, taking elements from the ideas laid out in the book, along with the earlier TV mini series adaptation, Muschietti does a great job in visualising the ‘Ritual of Chüd’ and King’s more metaphysical ideas in a way that makes sense in the context of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Ultimately IT Chapter Two is a bit of a mish-mash but for the faults there was a lot to enjoy and even with the long running time it moved it a brisk pace and kept something of the sense of the adventure of the first movie but with the more serious horror to match the adult characters.
While it has lofty ambitions, much like Chapter One it does lose some of the conceptual ideas inherent to the source, and in the end feels something like a huge b-movie but a visually striking one that is as entertaining, shocking and scary (in its way) as it needs to be so, while far from perfect, IT Chapter Two was still a good way to spend a few hours and certainly is something I already want to rewatch in conjunction with Chapter One.