A disappointing conclusion after a promising start, here’s our review of It Chapter 2.
Quentin Tarantino once gave an interview where he talked about how he’s only going to get to make a finite number of films, so his plan was to squeeze as many into each movie he did get off the ground. I’m thinking that director Andy Muschietti read it. Across the extraordinarily overlong 169- minute running time of It Chapter Two, it feels like here’s someone who’s been told he can never get to make a horror movie again, and thus tries to cram every trick into the one in front of him.
Well, every trick apart from building on the threat of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard), the scene-stealing horror icon of the preceding movie. Oh, and all topped off with a soupcon of lots of endings, so that if there’s one you don’t like, you can be assured another will be along shortly after. This is a very baggy film, made by very talented people.
Yep, I found It Chapter Two a sizeable frustration, a real pity given how effective Chapter One turned out to be. Here, we pick up events 27 years on in the small town of Derry, with the now grown-up gang of losers (now led by a series of strong performances, notably Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader) one by one called back to face the re-risen Pennywise.
It thus zips through the first section – save for a brutal, affecting scene that, as time goes on, appears to be there for no reason of note – offering a few slivers of recap before getting everyone around the table of a Chinese restaurant for a really quite effective opening. I’ve already seen this part of the movie criticised, but I liked it. It gives the movie space to reintroduce the characters from the first film in their grown-up form, and I found it time well spent.
Still, the movie then splits them all up again, throws in umpteen flashbacks, substitutes slow brooding scares for a pile-on of jump scares, manages moments of real emotion, and then dishes out another collection of special effects. The jump scares in particular are a disappointment. One or two work, but the first film didn’t feel so reliant on CG and quick tricks to get under your skin. As a consequence, the second film is nowhere near as outright creepy as the first. And there’s nothing here with the ingenuity of the sequence involving a projector in the first movie. In fact, nothing that comes close to that at all.
It all feels bloated, messy, and daringly on the nose too, as character after character delivers lines to McAvoy’s author about how he can’t string a decent ending together.
It’s not without moments, this, and I can’t reiterate enough how much Muschietti has shown the world how capable and good he is at handling horror material (if you can’t tell, I’m a fan of his). There’s little doubting at all that the movie is very well made, and very well shot. Furthermore, both Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader put in real performances of note in particular.
But still: It Chapter Two felt like a disappointing downgrade to me, that ran out of story surprisingly quickly for a film so long.
Worryingly, Muschietti has teased a longer cut of the film at some point in the future. I for one would prefer a leaner, more focused 100 minute version, with a notable reduction too in the number of endings.