Is Pennywise still serving IT for chapter 2?

Despite the nearly three-hour mark, Muschietti crafts something thrillingly grotesque with IT Chapter Two. But, is that enough?

Close-up of Pennywise the clown from IT Chapter Two

The much-anticipated It Chapter Two is set to be released in Irish cinemas this week and we were lucky enough to attend a screening ahead of its release. Was the movie worth the wait, you ask? Let’s find out.

IT Chapter One, prices unadjusted for inflation, ranks as the highest-grossing horror film of all time. I revisited it recently, with a dear friend who considers The Titanic a horror film (how I wish, for her sake, that this was an exaggeration); she hardly flinched.

Fear, as the two films demonstrate, is a subjective and personal thing, so I don’t try to speak for everyone; but to me, as to her, that clown just wasn’t that creepy. Is its head too bulbous, too cartoonish? Its place of residence too akin to an unpopular fun-fair attraction? Or was it just that, come Heath Ledger’s Joker, the killer clown aesthetic had been bankrupted by overuse? Due to its compelling cast of kids, the film worked as a coming-of-age story – as a horror, not so much.

IT Chapter Two, however, is an altogether different kettle of fish (or, perhaps I should say, fish-tank of floating heads). With a new cinematographer on board, Andrés Muschietti crafts something truly, thrillingly grotesque. An insect with the head of a prematurely born foetus crawling from a fortune cookie at the film’s outset sets us up for a fun-house of horrors possessed of singular visual ambition.

Throughout one hardly knows whether to scream or to laugh at images so imaginatively perverse. There’s a certain delight inspired by the fantastical visuals that recall films like Pan’s Labyrinth.

IT Chapter Two’s indulgent run-time pushes the three-hour mark, and Muschietti doesn’t manage to hold us throughout. The grown-up cast of this sequel aren’t nearly as compelling as their adolescent counterparts (though James McAvoy’s face and Jay Ryan’s abs are a welcome, if underemployed, addition).

The film, drenched as it is in nostalgia, is soaked through with too many overly sentimental monologues and often errs on the wrong side of sickly. The lachrymose is clearly not Muschietti’s metier, and the performances he commands are overwrought and unconvincing. But you grin (at worst occasionally grimace) and bear it, for you know that Pennywise The Dancing Clown is always just around the corner, and what fun it is to keep guessing as to what terrible shape he’ll assume next.

Given contemporary film production’s penchant for milking every last penny from any concept that proves financially viable, I’m sure we’ll all be lining up around the block for IT Chapter 64 in years to come.

Muschietti has already expressed interest in continuing with the mythology. Off the back of this sequel, I can safely say see you there; bring popcorn and (for the fainter-hearted) a spare pair of briefs.

IT Chapter Two opens in Irish cinemas on September 6.

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