IT Chapter Two Review

I’m old enough to remember the original It – and young enough to remember being scared witless of Tim Curry dressed as a clown.

Which probably makes me the perfect target audience for It Chapter Two.

To recap, a murderous clown called Pennywise has been terrifying the residents of a sleepy backwards town called Derry for centuries.

Every 27 years this monstrous joker feasts on the most vulnerable townsfolk he can get his hands on, and the helpless children of Derry are easy prey.

Personally, I’d suggest social services get down and investigate the seemingly non-existent parenting skills favoured by the locals.

Not that the last bunch of kids Pennywise picked on – who have affectionately christened themselves ‘The Losers’ – needed much help, managing to defeat our villainous clown and send this foul beast back into his abyss.

But he was not destroyed, and some 27 years later Pennywise has returned to terrorise the not particular bright residents of Derry once again.

Our now grown up losers made a pact when they were kids, to return if ever their killer clown should come back and finish what they started.

And though they don’t want to go back to Derry, and they sure don’t want to remember the past, the losers reunite to put an end to It.

Now, I’m not a fan of modern horror movies or remakes of classic films from the 80’s desperately seeking to cash in on the wave of nostalgia everyone seems to be riding these days – but I’ll make an exception for It Chapter Two.

I still remember watching the original tv movie with my older brother oh so many moons ago, and being freaked out by red balloons, little yellow boats and Tim Curry’s malevolent voice.

But at its heart, It was always about the bonds of childhood friendship – a scarier, young adult reimagining of that classic Stephen King work Stand By Me.

And it’s this emotional heart that always made It resonate with me.

Director Andy Muschietti’s first It instalment only dealt with the kiddy section of King’s book, and I can’t deny how effective it is to use children in horror films – taking me back to how I felt as a kid watching my first scary movie.

Which, of course, was It.

The adult section of the original didn’t work quite so well, something hinted at throughout It Chapter Two – even by Stephen King himself in a knowing cameo – but Muschietti’s sequel manages to surpass the original It.

This is mostly down to the highly believable chemistry of our adult losers – with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader leading the way – but also the seamless transitions as Muschietti switches between past and present timelines to make sure you remember why we’re here, while still keeping the current story ticking along.

Not everything works, they try to explain Pennywise’s past and seemingly limitless powers with some extra-terrestrial, native American shaped origin flashbacks – but when you try to explain the unexplainable, things usually go awry.

The special effects can be hit and miss too, though Pennywise himself is once again brilliantly played by Bill Skarsgard.

But It Chapter Two is a lot of fun, kind of like taking a modern day ghost ride through your childhood memories of watching scary films, and it pulls off that rarest of tricks – being superior to the original film it’s based on.

And in this golden age of bojo the tory clown, making a fool of himself at every available opportunity, it’s nice to have a clown in Pennywise who actually knows the hell he’s doing.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

September 2019