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IT CHAPTER  TWO **

Directed by Andy Muschietti. Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader. Cert 15. Released by Warner Bros on 6th September

 

There is a running meta-gag though out IT CHAPTER TWO that not only applies to the film’s protagonist Bill Denbrough, now a horror author in his late thirties and played by James McAvoy, but to the films original author. Stephen King often comes under fire for his endings and the same criticism is hammered home again and again towards Bill here. Unfortunately, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for this eagerly awaited concluding instalment to the much more successful opening chapter that stormed the box office two years ago and introduced Pennywise to a whole new generation.

 

Catching up to the present day we find ourselves back in Derry, Maine where Pennywise, played again by Bill Skarsgard giving the role a near definitive spin after Tim Curry’s fondly regarded portrayal, is spinning his malign influence over the small town once more. Beginning with a brutal homophobic attack the film choppily jumps around in re-introducing the scattered Losers gang who defeated him twenty-seven years before but mysteriously seem to have next to no recollection of ever doing so now.

 

Such a set up allows the film to spin its wheels with an over long flashback structure that allows the earlier films teenage cast to pop up once more revealing that there was a whole series of incidents that the audience was not privy to the last time they went to war with Pennywise, including a previously unseen underground hangout as well as key incidents that occurred concurrently that also went unmentioned but which may hold the key to destroying Pennywise for good this time.

 

IT CHAPTER ONE was something of a surprise hit at the time of its release as the signs of a troubled pre-production often made headlines. The films original director and writer, Cary Fukunaga, was fired late on into the process over creative differences. Looking back now it seems that a lot of what made the first film so successful could be down to Fukunaga who still retained a writer’s credit alongside that of Gary Dauberman, who takes on sole writing duties here.

 

Where the first film took a risk in updating the books time period of the 1950s to the 1980s, giving it an Amblin-esque throwback feel, but with far scarier results, there is no room for further innovation or risks here. Dauberman’s script, much like that for his directorial debut, ANNABELLE COMES HOME, comes across as a horror film more interested in the concepts of self-help and self-discovery than in anything that can actually disturb or unnerve, which in a film that is essentially about an otherworldly being who takes on the guise of a disturbing clown who likes to kill children comes across as a severe mismatch.

 

Muschietti proves his directorial skills with a series of arresting images; a star filled night sky transforming into a rear view of an uncompleted jigsaw and a barrage of Pennywise’s victims erupting from a sewer opening are prime examples, but all too often he relies on CGI ghouls who often come across as goofy. However, his commitment to King’s more outlandish aspects that come across as natural on the page and in the minds eye of the reader is given free reign here where it makes for some oddly unsettling and bizarre imagery that is rarely seen in other adaptations of King’s work, the fortune cookie scene being one of the most obvious here.

 

The cast do well in recalling the younger versions of themselves, Hader in particular as the grown up counterpart to Finn Wolfhard’s Richie gets the most to do character wise but yet again the character of Mike Hanlon despite being played nicely by Isaiah Mustafa is underwritten here and despite the actors best efforts his character comes across as muddled at times.

 

Perhaps IT CHAPTER TWOs biggest fault is in not giving Pennywise his real due here. Skarsgard makes a villain for the ages; the way he coaxes a potential victim at a baseball game is by far the best scene here. Running the gamut from pitying to funny whilst staying terrifying all the way through in a single scene is what the film needed more of and hints as to his origin and how it has influenced Derry show how potentially we could have had THE GODFATHER PART II of horror films. Instead we have a missed opportunity that wants to retread old ground and remind us all that we just need to believe in ourselves and other mawkish sentiment in place of reminding us that some childhood fears can never really disappear and only gain power over the years.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

 

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 © 2000 - 2018