IT Chapter Two review: Could this be the best Stephen King film ever?

A grim homecoming awaits the Losers' Club in this captivating conclusion to the killer-clown saga

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4.0 out of 5 star rating

IT’s alive! With this satisfying conclusion to the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, IT director Andy Muschietti returns to the Stephen King territory he mined so well in 2017, providing a follow-up that once more insidiously frightens. With his signature style and quirky finesse, he creates a magnum opus about childhood and the hidden scars it can leave behind.

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Twenty-seven years after the Losers’ Club defeated Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgard), the ancient trans-dimensional monster has reawakened to feed on the fear of children. Now upwardly mobile adults with jobs in media, fashion, entertainment and finance, Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stanley (Andy Bean) have long since moved away from Derry, Maine. Only Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has remained in their sleepy home town to keep watch for unusual events.

When kids start disappearing again, and a vicious gay-bashing leads to the discovery of dismembered bodies in the river, Mike calls his friends to remind them of the oath they took to fight the evil should it reappear. Through his research, he learns of a Native American Indian ritual to help defeat the monster.

For a second time, the Losers’ Club unite to trawl through past experiences (happily, the original cast of adolescents return in flashbacks at key junctures), conquer their deepest fears and destroy the deadlier-than-ever Pennywise.

IT Chapter Two clocks in at an impressive 169 minutes, making it the longest-ever horror movie. Only some mid-section, get-on-with-it meandering prevents Muschietti’s film from emerging as a total success. Yet it remains a captivating, character-driven chiller throughout, one fraught with an indefinable otherworldliness and an arresting sense of grim, grand poetry.

Beginning in crackerjack mode as the adult Losers’ Club assemble to share their hazy recollections, present dilemmas and terrifying prospects – Beverly has dreamt about all their deaths – IT Chapter Two kicks off in a determinedly deranged way that separates it from the genre pack. In a remarkably potent Chinese restaurant sequence, the fortune cookies come to life and make it monstrously clear what the re-formed group – and the audience –­ are up against.

Indeed, there are some pretty effective scares dotted throughout the densely plotted narrative, none more memorable than Beverly’s visit to her old family house. To say more would ruin the home-comfort horrors that will become one of the film’s most talked-about passages.

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Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan in IT Chapter Two

Over the course of the story, each of the seven leading characters has to come to terms with their guilt and regrets, and so a certain episodic melancholy creeps in. But once the spectacular finale hoves into view, the flabbiness is forgotten and Muschietti’s penchant for crisp expressionism comes to the fore in an explosion of Giger-esque design, Spielbergian chutzpah and on-the-nose references to King’s other stories, plus, surprisingly, John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The director also boasts a knack for layered suspense, with wonderfully clever scene-dissolves, superior visual effects – the upwardly dripping blood is a favourite – and ambitious montage, while the collection of intense performances (Hader will win many fans for his finely judged display of edgy humour) provides a solid base for the myriad funhouse pyrotechnics.

Perhaps the manner in which Pennywise meets his comeuppance is a little underwhelming given what has gone before, but there’s no denying the power of the climax. As distinguished as it is disarming, IT Chapter Two could very well be the ultimate adaptation of a Stephen King novel.

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It: Chapter Two is released in cinemas on Friday 6th September