After bringing Stephen King’s acclaimed novel to the big screen in 2017, director Andy Muschietti returns to finish what he started. Taking place 27 years after the first instalment, evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is terrorising the town of Derry again. Staying true to the oath they made as kids, Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), and the rest of the Losers’ club reunite to bring down the clown once and for all.
The mix of horror and comedy was noticeably ill-judged in the previous outing, but there is a better balance on this occasion. While the jump scares remain formulaic and repetitive, the humour feels assured thanks to the more capable actors. There’s a lot to digest as the narrative delves into the backstories of the many characters and although it’s nice to have some development, the flashback-heavy middle section of the story sags into a frustratingly episodic structure.
It comes as no surprise that an adaptation of such a classic would attract a star-studded cast, and the experienced performers manage to enhance and elevate the frankly substandard script. McAvoy and Chastain make the best of the material they’re given, but Bill Hader steals the show with his impeccable comic-timing and nuanced emotional range. With Skarsgård’s talent, he had potential to be an iconic Pennywise but, one stripped-back chilling sequence aside, his performance is hampered by iffy special effects.
By learning from some of the mistakes from the first movie and opting to revel in its own ridiculousness, It Chapter Two is definitely a more accomplished piece of work. Muschietti still doesn’t conjure up the dread or tension we’ve come to associate with the genre, but his vision is inventive, and the strong performances ensure that the film steers well clear of the sewers.