Jump Scare, Chase, Repeat
Despite an abundance of cheap jump scares, I really enjoyed the first IT. The atmosphere and tone of the film felt very Stephen King territory and for the most part, the story was faithful to the source material, presenting Pennywise as a credible and terrifying antagonist. With only half the book adapted last time out, it was almost inevitable that Pennywise would return to terrorise our screens again and two years later, Chapter Two arrives with the final act.
Picking up 27 years after the events of the first film, Chapter Two begins with all our kids grown up and seemingly oblivious to everything that happened in Derry when they were children. As we soon learn, anyone who leaves this town immediately forgets anything that occurred in the past and with Mike the only one of them left behind, the rest of the Losers Club move out and on with their lives. Unfortunately a phone call from Mike changes everything as Pennywise returns to wreak havoc on Derry once again, bringing our kids back into the clutches of our maniacal clown once more.
After a very promising and well-paced first act, the rest of the film shows signs of fatigue across its exhausting 2 hour 40 minute run time. It’s extremely hard to keep that level of horror and tension going for an extended period of time and even with video games, few manage to sustain that level of dread through the entirety of an extended run. Despite some genuinely scary moments and good jump scares, IT’s formulaic approach reveals itself during the second and third acts, as the Losers Club are forced to confront their fears before a climactic showdown with Pennywise himself.
If there’s one element of the film that shines, it’s the cinematography which is excellent this time out. The slick editing, including smooth transitions between scenes switching characters are incredible creative and whether it be stars turning into jigsaw pieces or a blood trial on a bathroom floor leading to another character in bed, all of these work so well to keep things tied together and cohesive. It’s also something that remains consistent throughout the film too and it’s frustrating in many ways, as I wish that level of creativity spilled over to the scares themselves which largely feel by-the-numbers and formulaic
There’s at least five chase sequences, a number of fake-out jump scares and even more weird and unsettling imagery designed to build up to another jump scare. It’s also worth noting here too that one particular horror segment is undermined by an utterly bizarre cut-away of music that I genuinely thought was a mistake during post-production.
The biggest problem with IT: Chapter Two though comes from its length. The first film did well to keep things moving at a steady pace and played out like a mystery with horror elements thrown in. The kids had good chemistry and learning more about them while they all worked together to try and figure out what was happening in Derry helped the film progress. Here though a lot of the set pieces feel overly drawn out, with each of our characters receiving two challenges to face before a final fight all together. By the end, it all feels very exhausting and the horror that was built up so promisingly early on, completely evaporates.
Of course, much has been said about the ending here and for spoiler purposes I won’t divulge what happens. Suffice to say, it will be polarising but for me I actually didn’t mind the changes to the book too much. Everything is resolved by the end leaving the door firmly shut over the possibility of bringing Pennywise back for an unncessary sequel.
Chapter Two fails to really hit the same highs the first film achieved and with a more condensed run time and a bit more urgency, it so easily could have been a worthy follow-up to the first film. As it stands though, the promising opening act is squandered with an incessant amout of chase sequences and jump scares that ultimately reduces Pennywise to a stock villain rather than a genuinely terrifying antagonist. Despite some creative cuts between scenes and a consistent tone throughout, It: Chapter Two is a disappointingly lacklustre sequel to the first film, ending one of Stephen King’s best books on a whimper rather than a roar.