Tuesday, September 03, 2019

IT Chapter 2 – the Losers’ Club are recalled to Derry to squash Pennywise and face their own demons (cinemas from Friday 6 September)

After reminding the cinema audience of the Secret Seven’s blood promise to return to Derry if the monster ever reappeared, IT Chapter 2 picks up the story 27 years later when the bat call goes out and the clan are recalled to face their demons and boldly go and revisit sets and locations.

Back in September 2017, I was unimpressed with the “overly long, sweary teen adventure which doesn’t contain the twists and turns to deserve any more than 100 minutes of screen time”. IT Chapter 2 is definitely an improvement, and the older age of the cast makes it a lot less like “watching a live action version of ghost-hunting Scooby Doo, complete with haunted house”.

The children have grown up and moved away, all except Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) who stayed in Derry and has been waiting for a spike in suspicious disappearings and murders. Richie (Bill Hader) who made puerile jokes is now a comedian. The tomboy Bev (Jessica Chastain) with an abusive father now has a violent and coercive husband. Bill (Jay Ryan) hasn’t lost his dysfluency. James Ransone and Andy Bean appear as Eddie and Stanley. The only real surprise is that overweight Ben is now a ripped hunk of an architect (Jay Ryan).
“All these memories … of people I don’t even remember forgetting”

A three-phase mission is concocted, allowing us to watch the Losers’ Club regain their memories, face up to their hurtful past, and battle psychological demons before descending even deeper than before into Pennywise’s watery lair “to finish IT for good” by following some ancient instructions carved on the side of a leather lampshade.

The IT franchise continues to be stylish rather than scary. Sure, there are creepy fortune cookie creatures, an enormous red balloon, ghoulish skin-stretched, tongue-twisting monsters, and a creepy clown who pops up. But the jump scares are gently timed to minimise fright, and Bill Skarsgård’s silly dance adds levity.

Blame, guilt, fear, loyalty, teamwork: the themes are universal. The sets are very impressive, though CGI is playing a huge part in making the world below Derry come alive. There’s lots of mirroring between the two chapters which fans will love. Andy Muschietti directs stylish flashbacks that allow the youngsters to add depth to what could have otherwise become a mediocre horror film. The return of psychopathic Bowers adds some genuine terror.

There’s a dangerous running joke about Bill now being an author who writes bad endings. The eventual means used to squash Pennywise in the final battle is appalling, allowing the Losers to descend to the depths of those who had for so long bullied them. Given the 169-minute run time, it was a pretty second-rate cinematic pay off for the hours invested. The two-parter is wrapped up without much fear that the Losers will have to return as pensioners to battle their nemesis. But a prequel is always possible …

IT Chapter 2 goes on general release in cinemas on Friday 6 September. Movie House are running a double bill on Thursday 5 September. Full marks to the people who remembered to wear yellow macs to the preview screening I attended!

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