Terror lurks in the sewers below Derry, Maine. Every 27 years, it awakens to feast on the town’s citizens who disappear without a trace. The last time it materialized was in 1989 when a group of young children known as The Losers Club drove it back into hibernation. Each of them swore a blood oath to team up once again if it ever finds its way back to Derry.
As the years passed, the children moved on with all but one moving away. With distance and time came a welcome forgetfulness. The remaining member, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), isn’t so lucky. He’s been waiting for the evil, in the form of a deranged clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), to resurface. Now, 27 years later, his worst fears are playing out. He calls the others to remind them of their oath and to plead for their help in defeating the clown once and for all.
This is the sequel to 2017’s highly successful film adaptation of Stephen King‘s legendary tale It. The first installment was an exercise in stamina, filled with enough tension to test the heartiest souls. The latest film reconnects us to the plot by moving between present and past. Played by the same actors from the original film, the children fill in details that viewers may have forgotten and alert us as to who exactly is who as an adult. The first film worked so well because it was viewed almost entirely through the innocent eyes of open-minded children. Anything in their world is imaginable, even the implausible. The new film struggles to keep that vibe alive. Adults spewing the same dialogue comes off as nonsensical. Nowhere is this more evident than while Mike tries to explain the ritual that the group needs to invoke in order to drive off Pennywise. There’s also a repeated attempt to trade on King’s other nostalgic story — Stand By Me. It works in the first film, but fails here for the same child versus adult issue.
This isn’t to suggest that the film isn’t effective. The scares in this one are every bit as unsettling as those of the original. It’s the surrounding material that fails to keep us immersed in its magic. Most of the thrills involve the characters coming face to face with past demons and haunting nightmares catapulted into reality. Returning director Andy Muschietti draws every ounce of stress out of every nail-biting sequence. The visuals will cause those who cover their eyes during scary scenes to miss half the film.
The lead actors are hit and miss. Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader fare better. James McAvoy is stuck in a bland role, and the rest are unfortunately quite forgettable. I struggled to even recall two of them for this review, and that was after looking up their names.
Horror fans in general will find much here to keep them entertained. Fans of the first film will likely find this one landing a notch below their expectations, but it’s still a fun time. I, for one, look forward to forgetting some of its more disturbing moments.