IT Chapter Two has flickers of fright, but is ultimately undone by an arduous runtime. Director Andy Muschietti went a tad long in the original, but successfully captured the intimacy of children facing a terrifying evil. Clocking in at a brain numbing two hours and fifty-minutes, his sequel tries to explore every corner and ends up lacking cohesion. The scares that work are overpowered by big-budget CGI theatrics. It Chapter Two aims for a blockbuster horror epic, but unfortunately misses the mark.
Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated the child-eating clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the town of Derry is once again under siege. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) reaches out to his childhood friends to fulfill a sacred pact. Bill (James McAvoy) is a famous writer, whose stutter returns when he receives the call. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) has not escaped the abuse that shattered her innocence. Ben (Jay Ryan) isn’t the fat kid anymore. Richie (Bill Hader) vomits before his stand-up act. Eddie (James Ransome) refuses to believe “It” has returned. Stanley (Andy Bean) fully understands what lies ahead.
The Losers Club struggles to remember the events of their youth. Mike, the only one who remained in Derry, has a theory why. He’s also figured out a way to kill the clown for good. The others are initially hesitant, but soon realize they cannot escape their destiny. They must face Pennywise individually, and then as a team. “It” will use their darkest fears to stop them. Pennywise has a score to settle in blood.
It Chapter Two largely focuses on the adult cast, but flashbacks to the child actors who reprise their roles from the first film. There’s more humor than expected as Bill Hader’s “Richie” and James Ransome’s “Eddie” continue their juvenile banter. The laughs strike an odd tone as the plot progresses. The audience can’t truly be scared if they’re laughing throughout a horror movie. Andy Muschietti needed to tune down the comic bits. The characters near constant levity, even when facing grotesque violence, feels out of place. It Chapter Two waters down the terror unnecessarily.
There’s no shortage of blood and gore. Several scenes are particularly gruesome. If only the film had stuck with an emphasis on realistic practical effects. It Chapter Two becomes too reliant on CGI. Pennywise goes from creepy clown to digital monster inartfully. This is especially evident in the climax, where I felt like I was watching a video game. The best scares are psychological, like a clown staring at you from a sewer. It Chapter Two doesn’t capitalize on what worked in the original.
The characters have a lot of dialogue, but are uneven in their interactions. The romance between Ben and Beverly is given time to develop. Whereas Mike is just a tool to advance the story. Bill confronts his survivor’s guilt, while Richie and Eddie are largely comic relief. Then the cast is just thrown back together for the bad clown showdown. It Chapter Two is so long, there’s no excuse for the difference in character depth.
It Chapter Two is sorely in need of a shorter edit. Forty minutes could easily have been cut. The film would have been darker, faster paced, and more impactful. It’s not as scary in present form; a bloated version of Stephen King’s classic novel. It Chapter Two is produced by New Line Cinema and distributed by Warner Bros.