Andy Muschietti’s first crack at King’s 1,100-page doorstop, 2017’s “It,” dealt with the first half: the Losers Club, a band of “Stranger Things”-like adolescent outcasts, battling the shape-shifting demon clown Pennywise (a wonderfully gangly Bill Skarsgard) in the Maine town of Derry. “It Chapter Two” takes up the book’s second half when those kids, now grown, are called back 27 years later to Derry after Pennywise returns.
That timespan gives Muscietti’s “Chapter Two” some deeper meanings to play with: how many of our darkest fears don’t change so much from childhood, how the brutalities of life bring new horrors, how fun it is to imagine Finn Wolfhard growing up to be Bill Hader.
Made with the same visual flair as the first movie by Muschietti, “It Chapter Two” is likewise a big-screen funhouse full of vivid setpiece thrills animated by each character’s fears. Some are better than others but they are consistently imaginative. In one, a giant Paul Bunyan statue turns menacing and careens through the town square.
It’s stuff like this, I think, that made “It” such a sensation and “Chapter Two” such a satisfying, if overstuffed, sequel. It has less to do with the scary clown and more to do with its maximalist nightmares. Hallucinatory but familiar visions come alive. One ill-advised peek into Pennywise’s sewer, in a scene worthy of Dali, culminates in a swarming hive of hands clawing at the interloper.
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