REVIEW: 'It: Chapter Two' is a scary slog though it's better than the first film

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Warner Bros Pictures

The iconic Pennywise, the most recognisable scary clown in pop culture, returns in It: Chapter Two to terrorise the same children, albeit now grown up, that it haunted in It. While there's no doubting the legacy of fear that the creature has left behind, the movie feels far too long to be an effective horror movie. The film has its scary moments, no doubt, but it also has many portions that could have been trimmed for time.

The film is set 27 years after the events of 2017's It, when a group of children defeated an unspeakable horror that took the form of a frightening clown. Now adults, they are drawn back to the small town where they first battled the monster, after a series of murders reveal that It is back. To put the monster away for good, they must confront their deepest fears... or die trying.

PHOTO: Warner Bros Pictures

While the sequel definitely delivers better scares than the first film, it does so at the expense of its running time. It clocks in at just 11 minutes shy of three hours, whereas its predecessor came in 15 minutes over two hours. This expanded running time is thanks to the film's dogged determination to pursue the plotlines of all its main characters, when it should really have kept its focus on fewer characters instead.

While this pay off in terms of character development and such, it feels unmotivated. When we left the characters in It, they felt like they had overcome their personal demons and achieved closure. Yet they all seemed to have artificially developed some sort of internal conflict that needs resolving in this film, which literally requires each of them to simultaneously go on a personal quest to deal with it. It's all too conveniently and neatly presented, rather than being organically motivated.

PHOTO: Warner Bros Pictures

The way the story is structured is partly due to the fact that both films are standalone movies, which each require their own story to be (relatively) self-contained. And It: Chapter Two does a masterful job of not requiring you to watch the first It by delivering exposition through flashbacks and metaphorical scenes which make use of both the adult and child actors. Yet it feels like it's full of plot but not enough story, and the pacing suffers terribly for that.

Despite the enormous run time, the film somehow manages to sell Mike Hanlon's (Isaiah Mustafa/Chosen Jacobs) character short. Beyond a series of newspaper clippings, the character lacks any sort of meaningful development, which is egregious given that he's arguably the heart of the group and that everyone else gets their time in the spotlight. It feels like a glaring omission, especially since the movie made time for supporting villain Henry Bowers (Teach Grant/Nicholas Hamilton) but not one of its protagonists.

PHOTO: Warner Bros Pictures

The film's scares vary in nature, but it's more of the lingering sort of tension rather than jump scares — which is thematically a good thing, given that the nature of It is that it feeds off fear. It's gritty and disgusting, with many revolting scenes that show you the toxic effects of It's presence in a visually impactful way. The creature itself takes on many different forms, including Bill Skarsgard's Pennywise, ambushing you with frights in many unexpected ways. But the sheer length of the film means that the scares are watered down, since it's one long trudge from one fright to another.

The pacing and story issues affect the quality of its scares. The dedication to telling the story of all its protagonists is admirable, but ultimately detrimental to the overall film. This instalment is better than It, but the movie should really have been much shorter.

PHOTO: Warner Bros Pictures

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you have the time.

Score: 3.5/5

Running time: 169 minutes

It Chapter Two is a horror film that's the sequel to 2017's It. It Chapter Two is based on Stephen King's horror novel, It.

The film is directed Andy Muschietti and written by Gary Dauberman. It stars James McAvoy (Bill Denbrough), Jessica Chastain (Beverly Marsh), Jay Ryan (Ben Hanscom), Bill Hader (Richie Tozier), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike Hanlon), James Ransome (Eddie Kaspbrak), Andy Bean (Stanley Uris), Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise), Teach Grant (Henry Bowers), with Jaeden Martell (young Bill Denborough), Sophia Lillis (young Beverly Marsh), Jeremy Ray Taylor (young Ben Hanscom), Finn Wolfhard (young Richie Tozier), Chosen Jacobs (young Mike Hanlon), Jack Dylan Grazer (young Eddie Kaspbrak), Wyatt Olef (young Stanley Uris), and Nicholas Hamilton (young Henry Bowers). It is rated M-18.

PHOTO: Warner Bros Pictures

It Chapter Two opens in cinemas:
- 5 September, 2019 (Singapore)
- 4 September, 2019 (Philippines)

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Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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