It’s difficult to adapt a Stephen King story to the screen. I take that back. It’s often almost impossible to do so. That’s why most of his best reviewed and most popular film adaptations rely more on story and character and less on special effects, CGI and general cosmic, shapeshifting, demonic spider clowns that terrorize small town America. Efforts like The Green Mile, The Shining and Shawshank Redemption (yes that’s a King story) have stood the test of time while The Langoliers, The Tommyknockers and more recently The Dark Tower, just to name a few, have struggled to win audience and critic approval. And, with all due respect to Tim Curry, who is certainly one of the greatest character actors of his generation, the early 90s miniseries didn’t exactly have “it.”
Let’s fast Forward to 2017 when Andy Muschietti made 700 million dollars with his first installment of the IT franchise to rave reviews. I am a huge King fan and an amateur filmmaker myself and I thought he did a very commendable job, although after a masterful opening scene with Georgie and Pennywise in the storm drain, I felt the rest relied too heavily on jump scares and left me slightly disappointed. It’s still miles ahead of the 90s miniseries just to be clear. Now he is back with IT: Chapter 2 which has officially been released on DVD and the kids have all grown up which means this film should be scarier and darker right? Actually…that’s exactly right. The first hour of the movie is very scary indeed. The highlight of the first act being Beverly’s visit with a terrifying elderly woman in her old house. This was another masterclass in suspense from Muschietti and Jessica Chastain flexes her acting muscles fully here. On a quick side note–if the opening scene’s homophobic undertones seem out of place remember that in the novel the adult section was set in the mid-80s. As each member of the Loser’s club are contacted by Mike Hanlon, who has stayed in Derry all his life researching Pennywise, we see the adults they have become begrudgingly return to Derry to face off with the clown once and for all. Bill Hader is the standout here providing much needed scene stealing comedy between the scares.
It’s after the first hour that the film starts to have issues. The biggest one–there is still 90 minutes of run time to look forward to. Andy Muschietti deserves a lot of credit for tackling a 1200-page novel and creating two films that live up to such an amazing story. I can’t help but feel though, someone on the production team should have been in charge of pressing delete on at least 30 minutes of footage here. If it’s possible to get bored watching a world eating, nightmare entity terrorizing a bunch of New Englanders, then rest assured you will be. On a positive note (I won’t completely spoil the end) for fans of the novel there is a departure here and honestly, it played pretty well. Cut to: 15 minutes of Denouement that could have been 2.
Overall fans of the first film and the novel will leave satisfied if not slightly tired. IT: Chapter 2 provides some of the scariest scenes of the two films but also some of the most useless. Like Muschietti, I could make this review WAY too long so I will just say definitely see both if you haven’t yet, although, maybe not on Christmas.
by Allen Parker