4 Stars

Two years ago, we experience one of the best adaptations of a work by legendary horror author Stephen King, It: Chapter One. Nobody expected the film to be as big as it was, surpassing box office expectations and receiving praise from both critics and audiences. This film is proof that with enough effort, King’s terrifying novels can become great films. But the story of Pennywise and The Losers Club didn’t end back in September 2017. We’re heading back to the place where it all began to witness how it all ends.

In 1989, seven kids, Bill (Jaeden Martell), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) came face to face with a terrifying being in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). Banding together, they managed to take down the vicious monster and end his reign of terror on the town of Derry, Maine.

Now, 27 years later, Pennywise resurfaces and begins his killing spree again. The now adult Losers Club (James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, Bill Hader, James Ransone, Andy Bean, and Isaiah Mustafa) fulfill their blood oath to return to Derry to kill It once and for all. But as they prepare themselves to face their childhood traumas again, they come to realize that Pennywise is more powerful than ever, and he’s not just hungry for children this time. He’s hungry for revenge.

It: Chapter Two isn’t necessarily as scary as the first film (though it is still terrifying), but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. In fact, quite the opposite. Just like the first film, it is one of the best films of the year so far. It makes up for what it lacks with the sheer epic scope of its execution, and is further boasted by it’s phenomenal cast. Never has anyone with so much talent and respect for King’s sweeping novel put this much effort into fully realizing the potential of the story.

As with the first film, Bill Skarsgård is amazing as Pennywise. He still doesn’t do as good a job as Tim Curry, mostly due to his demonic appearance. It still isn’t all that believable that kids would want to get close to Pennywise when he immediately goes into monster mode. However, his performance is undoubtedly terrifying, and he feels like a genuine threat towards our characters, especially with his added thirst for revenge against the Losers.

James McAvoy seemed like the right choice to play Bill. After starring in Split and Glass, he has proven his potential for horror films. McAvoy brings his signature talents to the town of Derry, and he is more compelling than ever. He looks really terrified to be facing Pennywise again. It’s unbelievable that he hasn’t even been nominated for an Oscar yet. He’s more than worthy of one, with all the effort he puts into his various roles. Someone please give this man an award.

We can all agree that Jessica Chastain is perfect casting for Beverly. Sophia Lillis really looks like a teenage version of her, so she was the fan favorite when it came to casting this film. And she is one of the highlight performances, giving one of the best performances of her career. She gives off genuine fear and emotion in every scene she is in. She was the one thing people were really excited for, and she really knocks it out of the park.

James Ransone as Eddie is another highlight performance, and another example of perfect casting. His performance captures all the paranoid fear and childish ignorance that Jack Dylan Grazer brought to the kid version of the character. They seriously look like they are one and the same. Ever since Sinister, he has displayed a level of talent that no one seems to see. This film further proves he someone that deserves more recognition than he gets.

The last highlight performance would have to be Bill Hader, though he gets bonus points for tackling a genre he’s never done before. It’s a little hard to believe that he’s spent his entire career working in the comedy genre. For his first crack at a horror film, he absolutely nails it. Yes, he is kind of playing a version of his usual character, but it surprisingly works. He’s able to switch between that and pure terror in a snap. Let’s hope this leads him to getting more roles in other genres, because he definitely has the potential.

Of course, the other actors are also worth praising. Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, and Andy Bean (for the little screen time he has) round out the nearly perfect cast. They all bring different kinds of personalities to the table that create a diverse range of characters that make up the central story. All eight leading actors really embody their characters and play them with genuine emotion in ways that make us root for them to the very end.

Aside from the amazing cast, there are so many things about this film that makes it worth viewing more than once. For being a nearly three hour film, it is perfectly paced and never slows down. It manages to keep itself going and successfully balance several different storylines all happening at once. Very few movies, especially horror films, have the ability to do this, let alone do it well.

No, this film doesn’t have as many widely creative scares as the first film. That’s one area where the film slightly disappoints. However, to say the film is scare free isn’t entirely true. Pennywise and the many forms he uses to terrorize The Losers Club are still as spine tingling as ever. There are more than a handful of moments that will make you jump out of your seat, even if you’re so intent to demonize jump scares.

On its own, It: Chapter Two is one of the best films to come out this year. It may not be as terrifying as the first film, but it makes up for that by giving us a perfectly chosen cast and fully embracing the larger-than-life size of the story while remaining faithful to the source material and never running out its 169 minute runtime. It’s hard to find any Stephen King film that’s as respectful as this.

But as two movies combined, It is probably the best Stephen King adaptation in recent memory. The entire 304 minute film is a true achievement in the horror genre, harkening back to the cinematic epics of the 50s and 60s. It’s hard to believe that a major Hollywood studio took so many risks to make a film like this. Let’s all give a round of applause for Warner Bros. and director Andy Muschietti for giving us a horror experience for the ages.