Pennywise, hailed as one of the scariest clowns of pop culture is back gracing our screens once again. Created originally by Stephen King in his 1986 novel, It, and after a successful TV miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace in 1990 starring Tim Curry in the iconic role, it falls to director Andy Muschietti (Mama (2013)) and actor Bill Skarsgård to respectively take this story and character into the 21st century and onto the big screen (with a little more help from CGI). The second half of Muschietti’s two part adaptation has got big shoes to fill with the success of the first film. IT Chapter 2 sees the “Losers Club” of Derry all grown up and brought back together to once again fight the killer clown who is fatally terrorising their hometown.
Resuming the story 27 years after the events of the first film, a violent attack on a homosexual couple outside a carnival leads to Pennywise taking his first victim. The opening shows this film will follow in the footsteps of its predecessor and leave nothing to the imagination with the graphic scenes. Not only will the film be gruesome, but witty, funny and beautifully shot with smart remarks made from the couple before the fight and the neon lights from the carnival providing the back drop to the opening scene, this sequel will be a rollercoaster.
Following the prologue, the gang are quickly re-introduced, but this time they are adults and wonderfully cast. It’s immediately clear who’s who from a visual perspective alone; the characterisations built in the first film all remain for each character from the beginning of Chapter 2. Stand-out performances come from James McAvoy as the guilt-ridden Bill Denbrough and Bill Hader as troubled comic Richie Tozier. It also almost goes without saying how fantastic Bill Skarsgård is in the role of Pennywise; giving the character a unique eeriness with his voice and facial expressions (not to mention the wandering eye thing is done by Skarsgård himself).
The level of horror and fear factor in this film are heightened from the first one, making it feel like the creators went through a checklist of most common fears and packed them in. There were definitely enough creepy moments and jump scares to carry this film and avoid any feeling that it had a runtime of 2 hours 49 minutes.
Group camaraderie is a strong theme in the first film, something that this sequel lacks as the group are split up to find “tokens” from their past. These separate encounters with Pennywise are definitely scary but begin to become tired by the fifth one, although as each escape from the clown had a unique memory and meaning attached, it didn’t feel like too much of the same thing.
IT Chapter 2 is a solid sequel and fitting end to this re-telling of Stephen King’s story. The comedy and heartfelt moments throughout are suitable respite to the sustained horror from Pennywise. A fun cameo from the author himself and the relationships within the group added profound warmth to the tone of the film. It certainly is a great horror that needs to be experienced in a cinema equipped with comfortable seats and a loud sound system.