It: Chapter Two (M18)

Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ray, James Ransone,, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård

Directed by Andy Muschietti

The first It movie is a coming-of-age flick set in 1989. The second one is a class reunion picture, but It: Chapter Two, isn’t just a sequel, it’s also its own remake. In the concluding adaptation of Stephen King’s magnum opus, the Losers Club returns to their hometown to wage war on a demonic force they defeated eons ago. 

The posse, now 27 years older, is put through the same wringer, one by one, by evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård, giving clowns everywhere a bad name again) in a mixed bag of A Nightmare On Elm Street-style reality-morphing-into-illusion set-pieces, with the most memorable one with Jessica Chastain (strangely underwhelming here) encountering a sweet old lady who turns out to be anything but sweet (this isn’t the spoiler: it’s prominently featured in the first trailer.) 

Those scenes draw inevitable comparisons to the surrealistic sequences in the Freddy Krueger series (in-joke alert: one of the sequels is seen on the cinema sign lightbox). But here’s the thing: The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs is smart enough to tick off his victims individually in their sleep whereas Pennywise prefers to torment the heroes first. 

Why doesn’t the Jester from Hell just kill them there and then, before they gang up on him? If he had done that, he would have fewer characters to deal with and the movie might probably be shorter. At 169 minutes, It: Chapter Two is exhaustingly long. 

Director Andy Muschietti said his original cut clocked in at — jeepers! — four hours but what he ended up with is still an unwieldy beast that’s at times draggy, at other times rushed. And there are moments when it feels like it’s running on a treadmill — it’s moving, but it isn’t going anywhere. 

Good thing the wonderful Bill Hader is at hand to crack wise, stealing as many scenes as he possibly can, even if it means undercutting the mood and tension. While the movie explores issues of childhood trauma and repressed memories, they’re regrettably sidelined by the digital effects-heavy, workmanlike scares, especially in the final confrontation which is essentially a proof of concept for It: The Theme Park Ride

But the scariest bit in It: Chapter Two doesn’t involve the supernatural or SPFX: it’s a horrific hate crime at the start of the movie which set the story in motion. The atrocity is never mentioned again, the perpetrators presumably never caught, never punished. Those monsters are still out there. Now, that’s terrifying. (**1/2)

Photos: Warner Bros