Arriving with anticipation Muschietti's new adaptation was a relatively faithful retelling of King's original story, and with the setting brought forward by 30-years it cashed in on the popular wave of 80's nostalgia. It served as the first chapter – The Losers Club – and told the story of seven young teenagers who were terrorised by an evil entity in the guise of a carnival clown. Aside from a few glaring liberties the film adhered to the original novel and proved to be a compelling coming-of-age drama married with suspense and horror.
IT: CHAPTER TWO picks up 27 years later, just like the second half of King's novel and the TV movie, and reunites the Losers Club as adults. Their memories of their childhood are vague and as the entity resumes its feeding on innocent children, recollections of their trauma return with it. Maintaining the same level of production value and overall aesthetic, this second-part successfully binds itself to the previous film. Sadly, the praise ends there because this concluding instalment serves as a bloated, nonsensical and ridiculously gratuitous exercise in ignorance, arrogance and disrespect.
The movie opens with a particularly horrific moment lifted directly from King's book, whereby a gay man is brutally bashed and thrown from a bridge. In today's progressive society this moment might sound relevant in a social-commentary sense, and yet it has no purpose. As originally written by King, this incident provided context and an ongoing narrative, which wove its way through the course of the first act, however on film it happens for no apparent reason and context be damned. From this moment on nothing about IT: CHAPTER TWO feels right. There is no cohesion or fluency, and with the entire film weaving in and out of flashback sequences it hits the screen like a stale funnel cake.
It must be said that the ensemble cast is very good, with Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader leading their troupe of consummate players. The likeness to their younger counterparts is uncanny and credit must be given to the casting department for providing the film its only clear moment of integrity, for the calibre of talent amongst this cast is wasted and trod upon by the convoluted script, lack of vision and the hideous abundance of computer generated imagery.
Mainstream horror has changed over the years and has come to a point where filmmakers either don't understand what scares people OR audiences think that non-stop action amounts to terror. Either way there is a genuine lack of horror in this instalment, and whatever tropes returning director Andy Muschietti chose to exploit, he misses the mark on just about every one of them.
The working title for Chapter Two was “Pennywise” and it makes sense that the studio dropped that moniker considering how little time he's represented on screen. I personally never found this new depiction of King's evil clown to be scary, and the more monstrous they made him, the less terrifying he was (for my money the truly scary clowns are those without exaggeration). And so you can imagine how fatigued I became when the little screen time Pennywise had in this film was smeared with CGI thicker than Vaseline... there's so much stupid computer contortion and manipulation at play here that everyone forgot about suspense.
As mentioned earlier the achilles heel of the 1990 adaptation was the poorly executed finale, yet fans will attest to the rest of that film. It was this one major blemish which gave us reason to be excited about an all new adaptation, because with all of the advancements in technology filmmakers finally had the means to recreate King's ambitious confrontation. I'm sorry to report that they failed. They failed on an epic scale. They failed monumentally. They failed conceptually. They failed practically. They failed visual effectively. The finale of IT: CHAPTER TWO is what I would call a hot mess... or more bluntly, a cluster fuck! And the worst part? The dialogue blatantly notes McAvoy's author character being unable to write a good ending. Talk about a self-referential wank. Oy Vay!
I hated this film!!! And I hate that it sucks so much that there's absolutely no reason to revisit the first chapter. Thank God we have the 1986 novel to turn to in times of need, and thankfully Tommy Lee Wallace's telemovie is 95% good and far superior. Now lets not try this again... IT is not a story suitable for the screen...
There are many problems with this film, the least of which is its lack of originality. We start with a cheap looking ancient Egypt where, no prizes for guessing, the forbidden love between Sebek (Shamel Hashish) and Reheema (Taylor Carter) ends up in them paying the ultimate price at the hands of the Pharaoh’s henchmen. They are mummified and buried in a crypt for a couple of thousand years until our hero archaeologists, Noah (Carter – he only needs one name apparently) and Daniella (Brittany Goodwin) stumble across the lost city and inadvertently reanimate Sebek who, with the help of a couple of poorly CGI’d hounds from hell, sets out destroy the world whilst trying to find his lost love. Our innocent heroes are, of course, also working for the nefarious Sager (David E Cazares) and his evil henchwoman Dr Dragich (Deanna Grace Congo). If all this sounds a bit familiar and derivative then that’s because it is, which would be fine if the directors were able to give us some good action or even a bit of wit no and then but sadly these things are missing.
What’s also missing from this movie is a big enough budget to properly realise the ideas behind writer Justin Price’s screenplay. The settings all feel very cheap and flimsy and, as already mentioned, the CGI just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Add to this a mummy costume that gives you glimpses of the actor’s skin behind the rubber mask and you’ve got too many distractions to keep an audience focused on the action of the narrative.
The performances throughout range from wooden to overplayed and the interminable pauses and stares off into the middle distance between almost every line manage to make a film with a relatively short running time (80 minutes) seem unnecessarily slow-paced, drawn out and stilted.
As the plot unfolds, the creature pursues our heroes out of the archaeological site and into the local museum where they find themselves not only being chased down by the mummy and its hell hounds, but also under attack from Sager’s men. As Noah and Daniella return fire the exhibits and artefacts in the museum become collateral damage with no apparent distress about the destruction of these priceless antiquities from either of our heroes. Similarly, when Sager captures Noah and Daniella and has them brought to his luxurious mansion, he seems to have no qualms about executing one of his hapless men on his expensive carpets or instigating a running gun battle through the house, despite his many works of art and historical objects being destroyed in the process. Add to this a special stone that seems to inexplicably have the power to restore life to the dead and all these things end up contributing to a level of implausibility that permeates both the narrative and the characters.
By the end of the film, the overstretched budget makes a valiant attempt to offer us a sandstorm and a finale that includes a Godzilla-like creature, both of which end up doing little more than adding insult to injury.
These two spooky moments prompt Sam to re-open the old case of the missing girl and, in the process, reopen some of the associated wounds that have lingered since the girl’s disappearance. Against the wishes of her uncle, who happens to be the Chief of Police, but with the help of Abdi Khan (Gabe Grey) who was lead detective on the Katie Owens case, Sam finds herself drawn into the secrets and lies that surround the events of that prom night and strange happenings since that seem linked to an old book of occult practices that include the goat-man, the number nine and a strange symbol that keeps popping up just about everywhere Sam goes.
There’s some genuine mystery and suspense in this tale that’s working from a strong screenplay written by the co-directors and realised through some nice, underplayed performances by a uniformly talented cast. Correia- Damude finds a cool, remote aloofness in Sam that makes her vulnerable enough for us to care about but abrasive enough not to completely trust. Ironside is also good as the uncle who clearly knows more than he’s letting on. Unlike some movies that attach a ‘known’ genre actor to the cast list to generate some marketing heat, he’s really in this film and gives us a considered performance that makes the most of the handful of scenes he has. What really works for this movie, though, is the depth of character in the many smaller roles that crop up as Sam conducts her unofficial investigation. Most notable amongst these are Allegra Fulton who gives a nicely unhinged performance as Maggie Owen, the mother of the missing girl, and Shannon McDonough who is slightly hilarious as Pat, the motel receptionist who plays against the icy Sam in a couple of scenes that come at just the right time to break the tension of the main story.
That said, the screenplay is not without its problems. The occult element is well developed in the early part of the film but ultimately doesn’t really lead to as much as you might hope for as the denouement plays out. Likewise, the ‘confession’ that takes us into those final scenes and the revelation of the truth seems to come out of nowhere ending up more as a narrative function than a logical breaking down of a character who can no longer keep the secret in. Perhaps the biggest risk of the narrative, though, is the decision to give us an ending that explains the mystery of the past but doesn’t entirely deliver a satisfying conclusion to the present. I’m in two minds about how I feel about how much we’re left hanging as the credits roll.
Back on the plus side, though, one of the many strengths of this movie is the visually compelling cinematography by Michael Caterina. His photographic style is not just a delight to look at but plays a big part in both the moodiness of the piece and the tension of the more suspenseful elements. This, together with a great soundtrack by indie pop band Cults, along with the performances and the bulk of the writing, elevates this movie beyond its few less successful elements, to be a really solid and at times quite suspenseful mystery.
For a few moments at the start of this film, just after a nicely assembled credit-montage of vintage clown images and just before the horror-clowns arrive, there’s a glimmer of promise as Savana Dane (Rachel Lagen) and her lover, Cash Mahoney (Christopher Preyer) plot to steal money from Savanah’s husband, circus-owner-cum-clown, Big Ronnie (John O’Hara). The dialogue here is arch and heightened with a noirish tinge that’s delivered in a tough-talking, exaggerated accent style with plenty of purple-prose along the lines of “you were all over me like taffy on an August afternoon”. But just when you feel that this movie could have a bit of tongue-in-cheek style to it, the scene dissipates into some over-the-top, unmotivated violence and the next thing you know we’re in a scene that is trying to make us believe that eight characters in a tight shot constitutes a circus crowd while we’re treated to a bit of gratuitous nudity and some soft-torture-porn. And the film goes downhill from there.
Yes, there’s a thin conceit that sort of explains why this bunch of sociopathic clowns seem to travel by tornado, but no real logic to the fact that Big Ronnie’s revenge on his cheating wife requires his pack of clowns to join in on the dismemberment of Cash’s body in a ridiculous orgy of spurting blood and severed limbs and totally unrealistic gore. Nor is there any real logic as to why the clowns suddenly turn on the whole town in a murderous rampage that seems to consist of repeating variations on the same dismemberment scene over and over with a couple of body-horror augmentations (poor cousins to the kind of thing we admire David Cronenberg for) thrown in for good measure. But that’s not the worst of its crimes-against-the-moviegoer. With all this mayhem and viscera going on, its pace is deathly slow and it takes forever for nothing much to happen.
The remainder of the plot (if you can call it that) is a bit of a muddle and seems mostly designed to string together a series of gory killings accompanied by the soundtrack of mad, maniacally clown laughter. On the plus side, the clown make-up is pretty good, but there’s very little else in the way of characterisation to delineate one from the other (apart from Big Ronnie, of course). In the end, the film ends up with a kind of predatorial hunting of a small band of heroes led by Savanah who, we trust, will ultimately prevail. The climax of the movie involves a pretty poor tornado-versus-plane effect and some pseudo-science that suggests you can kill off a tornado with a canister of liquid nitrogen.
So, don’t be fooled by the seemingly meta movie title. We might have lucked out with another recent mash-up title for a film called Velocipastor, but that luck didn’t hold long enough to give us the same hilarious experience with Clownado. You’d be better to take shelter in the root-cellar and give this hot mess a miss.