It only takes one good horror film these days for the makers to turn it into a franchise. Unlike other franchises, this sequel to 2017’s It, has a 1,000 plus page source material in the form of Stephen King’s 18th novel.
Considering the success of the first film, it’s only natural that the sequel has become bigger. The kids of Derry, Maine, dearly known as the members of the Losers’ Club, have grown up with most of them having left town in search of greener pastures. So has the trans-dimensional Pennywise, the Dancing Clown (a terrific Bill Skarsgard) who, after the defeat during the events of 1989, is back for vengeance.
You can see the grandness of this film in the casting which includes the likes of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader, and of course, the budget of the film which is twice than the original.
But all this grandeur does not translate into the film, which ends up feeling like an inferior rip off of the first film whose kids have now been replaced by adults.
The grandness is also in length: the sequel is close to three hours, about 30 minutes more than the first film. While it might have been made longer to stuff in the whole of King’s story, the slow-paced screenplay is counter-productive.
Our theatres interrupting the film midway in the name of an intermission, does not help either.
Where director Andy Muschietti shows his mettle is by not letting go of the best bits of the novel. The kids, despite being considered losers in their early ages, are successful as adults.
Bill (James McAvoy) who has still not recovered from the death of his younger brother, is now a successful novelist. Beverly (Jessica Chastain), the only female member of the club, is a fashion designer.
Ben (Jay Ryan), the overweight kid who was often bullied, is now a fit and successful architect. Richie (Bill Hader), whose loud mouth and foul language often gets him into trouble, is now a stand-up comedian.
But beneath this exterior, each of them have a dirty secret — a reminder of their past. Beverly, for example, after growing up and escaping from the clutches of her physically and sexually abusive father, ends up in a marriage that also turns abusive.
Eddie (James Ransone), who was brought up by a mother suffering from a disorder, ends up marrying a woman with a similar condition. To add to this trauma, the team, except Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) who never left Derry, has almost no memory of the 89 incident.
This gives way to a huge chunk of the film time spent by letting the guys walk around the town, visiting places where they witnessed several manifestations of Pennywise 27 years ago. This is where most of the predicted scary sequences unfold.
Similar to the first film, It Chapter Two also takes the liberty of tweaking the source material but the resultant product is a diluted version.
The stakes never get high here. The jump scares too, despite being creative, don’t really frighten you. Even the gory and disturbing murders by Pennywise from the original film get toned down here. Unless you suffer from coulrophobia, you have nothing to be scared of.
What intrigued me is the ingenious fashion in which the horror sequences are framed. For example, in one sequence, a live head rolling around the abandoned house ends up having several feet popping off it to represent a spider.
In another scene, a gay man is attacked by a few ruffians. A novel written in the 80s being relevant in 2019 for homophobia is quite disheartening and scarier than the actual film’s premise.
But ultimately, It Chapter Two, despite having a fine cast, cannot recreate the magic of the original film and is the joker of all the franchise horror films that have been coming our way.
Film: It Chapter Two
Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Skarsgard
Director: Andy Muschietti
Rating: 2 stars