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  IT Chapter Two Cram It, Clown
Year: 2019
Director: Andy Muschietti
Stars: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Stephen King
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1989 in the Maine town of Derry, a group of youngsters calling themselves The Loser's Club managed to put a stop to a series of murders committed by an otherworldly presence by taking matters into their own hands and foiling it by supernatural means. Or did they? It was a long time ago, and none of them remember these actions, so they might as well have been suffering a particularly vivid nightmare for all the effect this has had on their lives now they are in their forties. But one person does remember: Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), a librarian and the sole Loser who still lives in Derry. A hate crime has been committed that has brought the evil back, years later...

The first IT, Chapter One if you like, was an enormous hit, the most successful horror film of all time as far as box office went, cementing Stephen King's already rock solid reputation as the greatest horror writer ever and expectations were extremely high for Chapter Two. Yet while it did very well, industry insiders wondered why it did not match the success of that first part considering it was broadly telegraphed at the end that this was merely the first instalment, so come back in a couple of years for the next. It was reasoned that since this was the longest horror movie ever released, it was maybe too much of an ask to get audiences to sit through three hours of more of the same.

But it was probably more to do with the fact that Chapter Two just was not as good. Chapter One had streamlined the elephantine novel by concentrating on the parts with the characters as children, updating the nineteen-fifties of King's childhood to the eighties, which by now were regarded as a classic era for horror by the contemporary audience. Not coincidentally, this being a New Line production, this also was able to hark back to their signature character Freddy Krueger, like Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) a villain who used fantasy as a weapon, and that was the case here, except this was comparatively subtle in its allusions in Chapter One, yet thudding in the follow-up.

That began strongly with a recreation of one of the most unsettling passages from the book, where a gay man was murdered by a gang - there were complaints about this depiction from some quarters, though King had included it as a tribute to a real man who was killed in Maine in similar circumstances. After that we were invited to catch up with the Loser's Club as adults - Bill (James McAvoy) a writer, Bev (Jessica Chastain, the standout) an abused trophy wife, Richie (Bill Hader) a relentlessly quippy stand-up comedian, and so on. Stan (Andy Bean) doesn't join them on receipt of Mike's phone call, but the other five do, and soon their memories are coming back to literally haunt them as Pennywise begins to make his presence felt. Yet in spite of this resumed mayhem, he was diminished this time around because director Andy Muschietti dialled down the Lovecraft influence of the source.

Therefore the cosmic turtle, mortal enemy of the evil god known only as IT, was not present, and the entire ending was rewritten on a smaller scale so the Losers were less trying to deliver the entire universe from this ancient, unholy obscenity, and more trying to get their own lives back on track. Not such a bad situation for the characters we had appreciated in Chapter One, but it did seem as if the stakes were diminished and not helping was the chemistry between the younger cast members was lacking in their older counterparts. They weren't bad, exactly, but we didn't believe they were all old pals who had grown up together, missing memories or not. Also, screenwriter Gary Dauberman had concocted various vignettes for each of the Club to endure as the killer clown tormented them, but none really as starkly vivid or ingenious as those King had created, leaving no sense of progression when this was basically a rerun of what had gone before. Yes, it is an overstuffed tome, but it was never a chore to read, and Chapter Two was a slog with a letdown ending capped off with Stan essentially doing Wear Sunscreen for a sentimental wrap up. Disappointing barely covered it. Music by Benjamin Wallfisch.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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