Prolific author Stephen King doesn’t seem to have much luck when it comes to sequels to movies based on his books. See (or better yet, don’t) The Rage: Carrie 2, Pet Sematary II and the Children of the Corn series. Perhaps his fortunes will change with Doctor Sleep, the forthcoming movie sequel to The Shining.
Disappointingly, “It Chapter Two” (WB) follows the sorry sequel pattern. At nearly three hours in length (three hours you will never get back), “It Chapter Two” milks every last drop of blood and acid from its premise about Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a killer clown from outer space, who boasts about being the “Eater of Worlds”.
Interwoven with flashbacks to 1989 (including the one that opens the movie), “It Chapter Two” reminds us of the way the unpopular Derry, Maine nerds known as The Losers Club – Bill (Jaeden Martell), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) – faced off with Pennywise and emerged victorious, or so they thought. Based on Pennywise’s 27-year re-emergence cycle, and the vow they made as kids to take him down again, if need be, they are proven wrong in the overwrought sequel.
In what is easily the movie’s most brutally graphic, and not cartoonish in the least, scene of violence, gay couple Don (Taylor Frey) and Adrian (queer filmmaker Xavier Dolan) are pitilessly bashed near the grounds of a carnival. The bullies throw Adrian’s near lifeless body off a bridge into a river where he is further abused by Pennywise.
Adult Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of The Losers Club who stayed behind in Derry, and has been obsessively monitoring Pennywise’s activities, reaches out to the other grown up club members and summons them back to town to finish what they started. Each of them – successful fashion designer and abused wife Beverly (Jessica Chastain), novelist/screenwriter Bill (James MacAvoy), stand-up comic Richie (Bill Hader), risk assessment specialist Eddie (James Ransone), accountant Stanley (Andy Bean) and the incredibly physically transformed Ben (the stunning Jay Ryan) – reluctantly agree to return to Derry. Without giving too much away, Stan is the only one who doesn’t.
Things go downhill almost immediately, beginning with the hallucinogenic reunion dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It also doesn’t help that longtime nemesis Henry (Teach Grant) has escaped from the Derry psychiatric hospital and is on a murderous rampage. But its Pennywise, in his various shapes and sizes, who is the biggest threat, taking advantage of The Losers Club members’ various weaknesses. Nevertheless, they remain committed to the mission of ridding Derry (and the world of Pennywise).
More about jump scares than actual horror, and suffering from a series of hokey “Tales from the Crypt”-esque monsters, “It Chapter Two” is lacking on multiple levels. Additionally, lengthy fight sequences tend to overtake messages about bullying, friendship and love. Plus, the revelation about Richie’s secret almost gets lost in the shuffle. Only the humorous Hader and the breathtaking Ryan ultimately survive “It”’s wrath.