It Chapter Two
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa
Rated R for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material
2 hrs., 49 mins.

Welcome back to Derry, Maine, where the scenery is luscious and the children delicious.

Yes, that old kid-chewing clown is back and out for revenge on the so-called Losers Club, the members of which took him down in 1989. Down, but not finished.

It’s 2016, 27 years later, and the group has scattered to the wind; all except Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), who has been doing research for two-and-a-half decades in the attic of his local library. Oh yeah, he also lives there.

When he hears over his police scanner of a brutal beating on the bridge, Mike runs to the river and watches as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the alien life form posing as a clown, eats the beating victim. Red balloons follow.

Mike knows exactly what that means and immediately contacts his friends: Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), a writer; Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), a successful fashion designer; Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), a slimmed down architect; Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), a famous standup comedian; Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), a New York risk assessor; and Stanley Uris (Andy Bean), a wealthy partner in a large accounting firm.

They all reluctantly return except for Stanley, who commits suicide.

None of the Losers remember much about life in Derry. Seems their memories have been jettisoned. But when they hear Mike explain why he asked them to return, they all hustle for the door. While they may not recall dealing with Pennywise, they know crazy when they hear it.

Bill, however, is curious. He wants to understand why Mike brought them back. Mike explains what he has learned from local Native Americans about the origin of It and the Ritual of Chüd, the only means to kill It. Bill is convinced and persuades the rest of the group to fight.

I could write several chapters on the complications in this plot, including a sidebar with local bully Henry Bowers that seems to be tacked on. But the story really takes a back seat to the intent of original It director Andy Muschietti, who returns not just to tell a child’s story, but to terrorize the audience.

While he allowed for humor and sentiment to permeate the first film, this time he takes advantage of the chaos in his adult characters to fuel Pennywise’s anger. The result is a bloody and sometimes brutal sequel. Muschietti has unleashed the film’s inner demons and turned up the volume. Pennywise may dress as a clown, but there’s no mistaking his appetite for mayhem and destruction.

It can be excessive, but it’s definitely not boring. After gathering the gang in Derry, Muschietti puts the pedal to the metal and doesn’t let up until the final scenes. If you like scary, this is your chance, all two hours and 49 minutes of it.

It Chapter Two is less satisfying then it’s predecessor. The kids in the original gave the film some heart and soul. Their fight against Pennywise mirrored their fight against bullies and abusers in their real lives. Their trauma was palpable and the dark humor they shot out was genuinely funny.

In the sequel, the Losers have been beaten by their adulthood and their hidden fears. Their responses to each other are harsher and tainted by their increased anxieties. Perhaps that is director Muschietti’s intent; to show that their childhood trauma has blossomed into adult neuroses and thus become food for Pennywise.

It Chapter Two left me both exhilarated and exhausted. It’s terrifying, to be sure. The heat has been turned up and the Losers ripped apart. Everything good about the first film is shaded in darkness and disillusionment. Still, if you can take it, you should see it. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it does its job. It’s a horror film. It’s Stephen King. Thankfully, someone took his work and finally got it right.