Twenty-seven years have passed since the Losers’ Club stopped Pennywise’s killing streak. They’ve grown up and moved on, spreading out across the Greater Toronto Area United States. When the slaughter begins again, they return to Port Hope, Ontario Derry, Maine, hoping to permanently end the life of a certain murderous clown from beyond.

It Chapter Two has much to recommend it, but the fact that I spent a measurable amount of its two hours and 49 minutes trying to identify locations tells you something.

By the way, does anyone know where they shot the marina scene? It looks like so many locales in the Great Lakes Basin, that I couldn’t place it.

Title: It Chapter Two

Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Gary Dauberman, from the novel by Stephen King.

Cast
James McAvoy and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough
Jessica Chastain and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh
Jay Ryan and Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom
Bill Hader and Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier
Isaiah Mustafa and Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon
James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak
Wyatt Oleff and Andy Bean as Stanley Uris
Bill Skarsgård and a chüd-load of CGI as Pennywise
Teach Grant and Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers
Xavier Dolan as Adrian Mellon
Taylor Frey as Don Hagarty
Stephen Bogaert as Alvin Marsh
Molly Atkinson as Myra / Sonia Kaspbrak
Joan Gregson as Mrs. Kersh
Luke Roessler as Dean
Javier Bodet as Hobo/Witch
Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie Denbrough
Stephen Bogaert as Marsh
Jake Sim as Belch Huggins
Will Beinbrink as Tom
Jess Weixler as Audra Phillips
Martha Girvin as Patty
Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Victoria Fuller
Peter George Commanda as shaman
Peter Bogdanovich as himself
Stephen King as antique store proprietor

Premise:

The children who defeated an eldritch evil in 1989 return as adults to stop its clownish reign forever.

High Point:

The adult actors are fine, but the flashbacks to childhood show them up; those kids have chemistry, even in these story fragments. It Chapter Two‘s present tense features a number of strong scenes, including the horrifyingly real opening and Bev’s creepy, disturbing return to her childhood home.

It also features some fine bit parts, including Joan Gregson’s disturbing old woman, and Stephen King’s amusing cameo.

Low Points

However, the strong scenes appear in a meandering movie that runs an hour too long. While it follows its predecessor in combining horror and humour, it often does so in a tonally incoherent way, wrecking mood with, for example, that ill-placed Shining reference. It just doesn’t work as well as the first part. Kids fighting a supernatural monster along with themselves and their personal demons seems compelling. Adults doing the same feels silly, and, as a side note, I’m not certain how Bill managed to avoid being arrested. In addition, the separation of the childhood and adult plots, while cinematically necessary, robs the story of its complexity….

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 …and makes the film, already an adaptation of material that has been adapted previously, play like an R-rated repeat of Part One.

Effects: 5/6 It says something about how we’ve been desensitized to motion-picture horror. Several of the effects scenes would have inspired terror and wonder in the twentieth century; now they pass with too little notice. In any case, this film works best when it tones down the visual excess.

I’ve heard some complaints about the digital de-aging of the child performers to make them better resemble themselves at the time of the first movie. I thought it worked, and honestly did not notice that anything seemed awry.

Acting: 5/6 The leads do well with the material, and Stephen King’s cameo is the author’s best performance to date.

Teach Grant does well as the adult Henry Bowers, but the film largely wastes him.

I also will repeat what I said two years ago. The people who recall the 1990 TV It as some kind of horror classic probably haven’t watched It lately, and are recalling mainly Tim Curry’s stunning turn as Pennywise. To the degree that demonic killer clowns can have nuance, he has nuance. Curry’s Pennywise could almost pass as a real clown. Skarsgård’s incarnation is clearly a monster at all times. He’s a great actor, but the script and make-up leave no room for subtlety. He does, however, give Pennywise a strong send-off. For a cosmic horror who has survived millennia, It really doesn’t get out much. The shockingly limited range of It’s influence suggest It most resembles It’s most mundane sobriquet, Bob Gray. This is a cosmic horror that has been,in effect, imprisoned for longer than we can imagine.

Production: 6/6 The film retains the high production values of the original, and makes excellent use of locations and constructed sets.

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 4/6 For a film running nearly three hours, it communicates surprisingly little about the characters’ broader adult lives and relationships. The film relies on our familiarity with the first movie to feel for these people.

Certain scenes, however, do an excellent sense of communicating a sense of the dread that pervades Derry.

Overall: 4/6 The first film, thankfully, spared us the novel’s Pre-Teen Sewer Orgy. This one grants a similar favor by cutting the book’s wildly over-the-top finale.

The second installment is well-made, but it lacks the Trick-or-Treat punch of the first part.

In total, It receives 29/42