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by Kieran O'Brien
IT: Chapter 2 is carrying a lot of weight on its shoulders. It must suffer the pressure of adapting a beloved novel; it must act as a sequel, setting up characters we thought we knew, albeit twenty-seven years later; it has the weight of expectation after a commercially and critically popular first instalment, but most of all, it must frighten us. If Pennywise the Dancing Clown is anything less than horrifying, we will leave the cinema disappointed. Thankfully, IT: Chapter 2 bears this weight well.
We follow the now-grown-up members of the Loserâ€™s Club as they fight to put an end to Pennywise after he returns to terrorise their childhood hometown of Derry after a twenty-seven-year slumber. Before we go any further, letâ€™s address the filmâ€™s casting choices, because they are phenomenal. Heading into Chapter 2, there was a concern over the modern-day Loserâ€™s Club matching the look of the 1989 Loserâ€™s Club, but they nailed it. Each character (yes, even the now-buff Ben Hanscom) bears a striking similarity to their younger iterations. The resemblance between James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer as old and young Eddie Kaspbrack respectively is particularly uncanny. All of this adds to the believability of the story; one mistake in the casting department wouldâ€™ve cost dearly in terms of audience investment. All of the actors are giving their best here, too. Each of the several main characters are clearly defined, and we feel their joys just as much as we feel their fear, even if their introductions feel a bit rushed. Unfortunately, where IT: Chapter Two starts to stumble is its tone.
There seems to be a misconception in Hollywood these days that audiences are only enjoying themselves if theyâ€™re laughing. Itâ€™s not true, but the people behind IT: Chapter Two clearly thought it was. This is a funny film and is able to elicit many belly-laughs (to the writersâ€™ credit). Bill Hader as Richie Tozier provides most of this comedy, but many of the jokes come from the filmâ€™s direction; cutting to a wide at the right moment, revealing a new characterâ€™s perspective, playing quirky music over gross-out scenes. Itâ€™s safe to say that not all the jokes land, though. When they hit, they hit, but when they miss, the audience is left simmering in the uncomfortable silence that follows a bad joke. All of this is to say that including so much comedy was a bad choice. This is supposed to be a horror film. Itâ€™s Stephen Kingâ€™s IT for goodness sakes! Before I give the wrong idea, yes, the film does have some scary scenes (one that takes place under a set of bleachers will have you sweating), but the feeling doesnâ€™t last. IT: Chapter Two does a poor job of maintaining a sense of dread, and tries to distract you from it with jokes.
Itâ€™s not all bad, though. Pennywise is delightfully freaky, and for most people, he is why you will want to see this film. Bill SkarsgĂĄrd is brilliant (watch out for moments where Pennywiseâ€™s eyes drift to face opposite directions; those are Mr.SkarsgĂĄrdâ€™s real eyeballs, no CGI trickery!). The film also has a great cameo I wonâ€™t spoil, but if youâ€™re as big a Stephen King fan as this reviewer is, it might end up being your favourite scene in the film. IT: Chapter Two also contains way more flashbacks to 1989 than I was expecting, and while maybe there was one or two that felt like they couldâ€™ve been cut (did I mention this film is nearly three hours long?). They worked for the most part, adding a nice layer to the characters and linking up the two timelines well without feeling choppy.
IT: Chapter Two tells a grisly tale. If you enjoyed 2017â€™s IT, you'll probably enjoy the sequel. As a conclusion to the tale, itâ€™s satisfying, tying a neat bow around everything at the end (arguably too neat). Youâ€™ll laugh and youâ€™ll cry, and if you can get over the taste of Hollywood Horror it leaves in your mouth, youâ€™re sure to have a good time.
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