“For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you…I’ve missed you!” ~Pennywise
**Warning: Contains Some Spoilers**
Horror’s highly anticipated follow-up to Andy Muschietti’s 2017 ground-breaking re-imagining of Stephen King’s iconic 1986 novel, IT floated its way across cinemas this weekend. Set 27 years after the first instalment, IT: Chapter 2 revisits the beloved Losers Club in their adult years as they are reunited to battle against the sinister clown, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) who terrorised them as children.
Now grown up; the Losers’ Club have seemingly moved on with their lives, until they receive a call from their old pal, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of the group who remained in their hometown, Derry following their traumatic childhood. Once reunited, the fear and dread they felt as children manifests leaving them to pick old wounds and face buried emotions all while dealing with the prospect of confronting the evil force that is Pennywise all over again.
IT: Chapter 2 did not disappoint, Muschietti has created a strong follow-up that effortlessly picks up where the 2017 instalment left off. Chapter 2 combines bloody horror alongside a heart-warming tale of friendship with the same level of humour to bring in light relief much like its predecessor did.
Firstly, the casting is tremendous. In Chapter One, the children’s cast were phenomenal, each delivering highly memorable performances, effectively bringing the characters out of Stephen King’s pages to life. Casting their adult counterparts was always going to be met with apprehension. In order to keep the films consistently on par with each other, the right actors would need to be selected to ensure the audience would envision them as the same people we were initially introduced to.
From the moment, Chapter 2 was announced, Jessica Chastain was the most popular choice to play Beverley Marsh. Sophia Lillis who played the younger version of the character had expressed that Chastain was the actress she wanted to share her role with. Chastain plays the part beautifully as a woman who has made a success of her life, despite her turbulent and abusive upbringing. The past scars are still visible as Bev must continue to fight her demons. She continually feels like the peacemaker of the group, determined to keep them together. Bev was the most affected by the battle with Pennywise having been exposed to the ‘deadlights’ scarring her with premonitions of each of their deaths. She comes across as much braver and stoic than her male friends when faced with the prospect of impending death, a complete contrast to the highly-neurotic Eddie (James Ransone) for instance. Together, Lillis and Chastain have made Beverley Marsh into one of the most multi-layered and memorable female heroines in recent horror cinema.
Making his horror film debut, Comedian Bill Hader is a revelation as the older Richie Tozier. His arc proves to be one of the most compelling and interesting within the film as he battles insecurities and supressed emotions. His performance is an extension of Finn Wolfhard’s from Chapter One as he turns his hand to humour as a coping mechanism when faced with danger.
Emulating Stephen King himself, James McAvoy’s Bill Denbrough is a successful writer continually in the firing line of criticism when it comes to the direction of his endings. Acting as a parallel to Bill’s own life, tormented and never having made peace with losing his younger brother Georgie, Bill’s arc centres on finding closure to the past in order to move forward with the future. McAvoy is easily believable as an older Jaeden Martell playing him with the same stuttering vulnerability.
James Ransone (Eddie), Jay Ryan (Ben), Andy Bean (Stanley) and Isaiah Mustafa (Mike) each deliver memorable performances making their characters so effortlessly believable as the older versions of the children we saw in the first instalment. IT: Chapter 2 is a mighty ensemble piece, featuring authentic and layered dynamics its as if revisiting these characters is just like catching up with old friends.
It still stands, Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of the ominous Pennywise is one of the most terrifying horror villains of the decade. Played with unpredictability, an air of whimsicality and utter terror, Skarsgård delivers goosebumps and chills each time he is on screen. Pennywise revels in brutality and plays a part in some nastily creative kills. His piercing eyes are enough to send shivers down the spine. Skarsgård completely owns this role proving that he never stopped being frightening to the Losers club even after they’ve reached adulthood.
Peppered in nostalgia, IT: Chapter 2 features sublime cinematography, an abundance of creative and unnerving CGI imagery, a fiercely witty script, dark atmosphere, jump scares in all the right places and a gut-punch of an opening scene. It’s a horror film with a heart and allows us to truly care for the characters setting it apart from the average slash’ n hack concept often seen in the mainstream market. It is also notable that IT: Chapter 2 is one of the first to utilize technology that de-aged the young actors so that they would look the same as they did in 2017, which is just incredible for the future of film.
The IT films will go down in horror history as modern genre films that captured the essence of its source material incredibly well, while evoking the tone of 80’s style horror films that fans adore. It also incorporates many relevant themes within today’s culture including representation of the LGBT community, including homophobia and historic sexual abuse. Horror has always been a gateway into confronting difficult subjects that plague society, the IT films offer catharsis and empowerment in watching relatable characters fight against their worst fears and eradicating the world of badness.
So, does Chapter Two hold a candle to Chapter One? The answer is absolutely. Instead of being presented as a sequel, Chapter Two is a pure continuation of the story. Andy Muschietti and the cast have done an impeccable job in bringing King’s iconic story to life. It was a smart move in splitting the saga into two films allowing the audience to get to know the characters well and seeing their plight transition organically from childhood to adulthood.
IT is without a doubt one of the greatest mainstream horror offerings of the year and the decade, ensuring that we will never look at a red balloon in the same way again!