Returning to Derry, Maine – the small American town that remains equally unnerving and mundane – is something the Losers’ Club vowed to do 27 years ago. A vow most of them forgot. But in It: Chapter Two, director Andy Muschietti has not forgotten, and the time has come to face Pennywise for the last time.
Emerging from his cyclical hibernation the monster is hungry once more, and this time he’s made a special dietary exception. The menacing clown with a taste for children is opening up his palette to the now-grown Loser’s Club. “I dreamt of you, I craved you, I missed you” he insists to Bill (James MacAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), Ben (Jay Ryan), and Beverly (Jessica Chastain). Minus one member, the group reunites upon the call of Mike, the only one of them who stayed in Derry all this time. As they return to their childhood home, experiences and friendships since forgotten slowly return, and the adult cast do a simply fantastic job of showing viewers who the children have become.
2017’s first chapter brought together a widely acclaimed young ensemble, and the casting of their grown-up counterparts is some of the most impressive in recent memory. It’s actually difficult to believe that James Ransone and Bill Hader are not just Jack Dylan Grazer and Finn Wolfhard from the future. It is clear the new cast of Losers have taken great care in crafting detailed and nuanced performances inspired by the kids and Stephen King’s beloved novel. The young ones are also perfectly preserved in their tweendom by seamless de-ageing special effects; viewers would be forgiven for thinking it’s just unused footage from the first film, it’s that good.
However, fans of the It kids need not fear, as multiple flashback sequences piece together a past we never saw. But Chapter Two does not patronise its audience; these fragmented sequences include fun moments in an underground clubhouse, and equally tender ones between specific characters, as we are left to piece them together in the Losers’ timeline. In Gary Dauberman’s screenplay, relationships between them are explored and deepened, and the characters become even more lovable (if that was possible).
Bill Skarsgård returns as the titular monstrous entity. Somehow finding new ways to unsettle and unnerve, he plays this role as if born to do so. Chapter Two also rectifies one of the first film’s failings: not enough Pennywise. Muschietti lets Skarsgård stretch his legs a little more here, both literally and figuratively. Pennywise doesn’t just want his meal anymore, he wants revenge. He taunts around town with blood, “Come home, come home, come home.” As the rag-tag group who escaped him return to defeat him for good, he gets hungrier and more excitable, teasing each of the gang as they relive their scares in new ways.
It: Chapter Two could be interpreted as a love letter of sorts, one addressed to those desperate to leave their “small town of small minds.” Yet, equally one to those who longed for a Losers’ Club of their own. Adventures as epic and terrifying as that of The Goonies, Stand By Me, Monster House and It are ones through which we can live vicariously. Kids who longed for a secret clubhouse, a blood pact, or to just go through something that would make them feel like one of the magnetic, scrappy kids who adventure onscreen, have found solace in these friendships for decades. Here, Muschietti has managed to capture the magic of that relationship. And Benjamin Wallfisch’s memorable score only furthers the sense of adventure and intrigue, making this final chapter feel like a true epic.
Whilst the climax of the narrative is arguably a tad too similar to that of the 2017 entry, it can just about be forgiven thanks to its spectacle and imagination. Every cast member here is in full-throttle, and the whole package feels made with a bursting heart and great love for the Losers of Derry. Stephen King himself even pops up in a cameo as though to nod to the audience his seal of approval. For now, this meeting of the Loser’s Club has officially come to a truly spectacular end.
by Millicent Thomas