There is a set of “Losers” in Andy Muschietti’s It Chapter Two, in which the kids in the first film (It-2017) have grown up, and are played by a fine cast of actors that includes Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy.
The eponymous villain remains the shape-shifting malevolent creature — often in the guise of a scary clown called Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgard — that preys on the children of a town called Derry, but appears after 27 years. The earlier film had ended with a group of teens defeating It in 1989, and vowing to return if the monster ever resurfaced. (Both films are based on the Stephen King 1986 bestseller).
Of the self-proclaimed “Losers Club” only Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), remained in Derry, keeping track of news of missing kids or strange happenings that could be attributed to the evil of Pennywise. After a homophobic attack on a man called Adrian (played by Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan), Mike calls his old friends, who don’t remember the pact, but turn up all the same (except one) and are introduced with their new lives, residual traumas and quirks — Bill (James McAvoy), whose kid brother had been dragged away by the monster in the first film, Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Ben (Jay Ryan), Stan (Andy Bean).
The story replays itself — each character faces the monster, as Pennywise keeps turning up with different alter egos to match the character’s fears and phobias, each scarier than the other. The film moves back and forth between the past and present, which adds to its running time (nearly three hours), but also seamlessly connects what happened before, to what the Losers face in the present. King made the characters’ worst nightmare comes true, and the film, aided by excellent production design and special effects, ratchets up the horror by several degrees.
This not schlock filmmaking with creepy sounds and jump scares, it is terrifying in flesh-crawling, scalp-tingling way. While the kids brought vulnerability to the story, the full psychological impact of what ‘It’ is capable of is handled with emotional heft by the adults.
Master of the Macabre, King himself makes an appearance in the film, as the owner of an antiques shop and appears to be enjoying his cameo. As he should — so many years and a mini series later, his book has not lost its power to chill.