Horror is a difficult genre to pull off, due to varying philosophies of what viewers find frightening. The overarching concept is key in these stories, as a good idea can hook the audience and successfully lure them into the film’s terrifying world, while a poor premise will leave viewers disengaged with the story. IT: Chapter 2 falls firmly into the latter, following the same thematic beats of the original to an equally uninspired result.
The film’s opening directly follows the events of IT: Chapter 1. The Losers Club has survived their encounter with Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) and have vowed to return if IT should ever reappear. Now 27 years later, Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Riche (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone), and Stanley (Andy Bean) have relocated away from their hometown of Derry, Maine. Until one day they receive calls from Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), beckoning them back to once again take on Pennywise. The story follows the group as they return to stop the killer clown for good, while also flashing back to events of their first encounter with Pennywise as children.
Where the film fails is in its concept. Pennywise is a killer clown who manifests himself as a person’s fears. What people find scary is subjective, but clowns generally aren’t the answer. In addition, the manifestation of the character’s fears doesn’t come off as chilling as much as gross, which can be a turn off to some. So, while the escapades of this clown are cinematically well executed, it doesn’t frighten, which is a failure of the film’s prime objective. It would be remiss not to point out that there were some effective jump scares sprinkled into the story, but this doesn’t excuse the overly long plot as a whole for its utter lack of suspense and terror.
Luckily, IT: Chapter 2 has superior humor and acting than is typically seen in this genre. James Ransone wins the movie as the adult version of Eddie, perfectly capturing the cadence and mannerisms of his younger self. His interplay with Hader is spectacular, resulting in some genuinely great scenes. James McAvoy gives a great performance as well, portraying the grownup version of Bill. He fully commits, giving the character the depth and gravitas required to carry the story. These childhood friends haven’t seen each other in years, yet upon reuniting it’s like they’d never left. It’s in these moments that the film shines the brightest and one wonders why this wasn’t a comedic drama about childhood friends coming back into each other’s lives.
Overall, IT: Chapter 2 has good humor and performances, but is a horror movie lacking the very essence of the genre. There are slick visuals and good cinematography, but the concept of the story just doesn’t work, resulting in some jump scares and an unsatisfying climax. The ride is entertaining enough, yet one that fails to deliver it’s intended cinematic experience. I give it 2.5 out of 5 Stars and recommend it to diehard fans of Stephen King.