Let’s face it, It’s all about the clown. Sure, the “throwback-1980’s-Stranger-Things–pseudo-Spielbergian” vibe helped propel the first chapter of the Stephen King adaptation to $700 million worldwide, making It the most successful horror film of all time. But it’s primarily the indelible, twisted image of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise the Clown that drew in the crowds. Sadly, though afforded double the budget, It Chapter Two provides half of the scares of the first installment. This clown’s makeup is wearing off, fast.
Don’t get me wrong – Skarsgård is still the main, and arguably only, reason to spend 167 valuable minutes watching what ultimately amounts to a cinematic funhouse of lukewarm scares. (Yes, you read that right, Andy Muschietti’s horror sequel is just ten ass-numbing minutes short of Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings.) Pennywise’s mannerisms, the way he moves, the savagery behind his wonky eye – those are the things that will stay with you after the credits (finally) roll.
“When Pennywise comes back… Mike begs them to reunite and conquer the evil, once and for all.”
What grows increasingly tiresome are the utterly forgettable special effects. The decision to resort to frankly cheap-looking digital ghouls as the representation of our innermost fears was lunkheaded in the first chapter, and the filmmakers haven’t learned from their mistakes. A goofy-looking statue of a lumberjack comes to life. Poorly-rendered little baby ghouls crawl out of fortune cookies. Those sequences wouldn’t feel out of place in a Goosebumps film. They also happen to make It Chapter Two‘s unjustified cruelty that much more jarring: a gay couple is beaten half to death, and then one of them suffers a grisly fate; children get bullied and graphically chomped alive; one of the main characters commits suicide early on, thereby arguably saving the day (I’m sure endorsing suicide wasn’t one of the filmmaker’s intentions, yet it leaves an icky taste).