It Chapter Two: a buffet of horror and an excellent cast

From left, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, James Ransome, Isaiah Mustafa, and Jay Ryan in the horror thriller, It Chapter Two. Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer

It’s been 27 years since Pennywise the clown last haunted Derry, Maine.

All but one of the children affectionately known as the Losers

Club have grown up and moved on.

Mike Hanlon (played as a child by Chosen Jacobs and an adult by the Old Spice Guy himself, Isiah Mustafa) has spent 27 years working as the town librarian obsessing over what happened when he was a child.

As the only one of the Losers Club to stay in Derry, he’s in the unique position of being the only one who remembers the trauma they endured – those who left have lost memory of their youth either through unexplained magic or traumatic repression.

When It returns, Mike calls the rest of the Losers Club home to make good on a 27-year-old oath.

They return to face down an evil, shapeshifting force in his favourite clown costume. Standing 6-foot-6, Bill Skarsgard (brother of Alex and son of Stellan) continues to turn It into a terrifyingly imposing creature. His jerky, impossible-to-predict movements are one of the most consistently unsettling parts of the film.

Once home, the Losers find themselves subject to hallucinations, flashbacks (a welcome chance to revisit the actors playing their younger selves) and a clown focused on revenge.

That revenge includes terrifying scenes involving 12-foot-tall naked old ladies, decapitated heads that grow spider legs and chase people, and a scene that will turn you off fortune cookies for life. It’s a buffet of horror for those willing to indulge.

The casting of the adult counterparts to the younger characters that audiences fell in love with in the first installment could not have been more successful. Each adult actor not only looks like their child actor (through the help of a fantastic costume and makeup department) but seems to embody their essence in an otherworldly way.

Bill Hader as grown-up Richie Tozier steals the show, but the other five actors (Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa and James Ransom) are excellent as well.

If you love Stephen King’s original novel then you already know this story is ridiculously long (the book clocks in at more than 1,000 pages) and this second film installment suffers the same fate at nearly three hours. It is, without question, at least 30 minutes too long and a more ruthless editor could have, and should have, trimmed some of the bloat.

On a positive note, this is the first film or television version that the horror master himself Stephen King believes got it right – high praise indeed, and perhaps the only praise that matters for a horror buff like director Andy Muschietti.

It Chapter Two is full of scares, a surprising number of laughs, and terrific performances from an all-star cast.

It’s scary enough to frighten you while you watch but not scary enough to haunt your soul for all eternity, which in this total wimp’s opinion, is perfect.