It’s difficult to overstate the enormity of 2017’s It, now perhaps best referred to as It: Chapter One. For financial reasons, it’s something of a milestone, having broken The Exorcist’s long-standing record of being the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, as well as being the genre’s most profitable ever.
On a budget of $35 million, and with the help of an extraordinary marketing campaign, the film climbed to $700 million at the global box office. Considering the lack of bankable stars, with the possible exception of Bill Skarsgård as the demonic Pennywise, and the fact that the dated TV series is the only other screen iteration of Stephen King’s book (these days, it’s all gotta be remakes), It’s success is extremely impressive.
But what was really great about It was how well it wore its commercialism. Playing like a far less kitsch Stranger Things, and having enormous amounts of fun with effects and makeup, the film was a great piece of pop horror for the multiplexes. It: Chapter Two has a lot to live up to, then. Thankfully, it’s already shaping up to be just as good as its predecessor.
Taking place 27 years after It, and with Andy Muschietti returning as director, The Losers Club has grown up. Pennywise is returning to haunt the adult iterations of those charming kids, and Bill Skarsgård finally has several challengers for the starriest star in the movie. In the dual lead roles as Bill and Beverly are James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, both of whom were predicted early on as being likely to take over the roles.
Chastain, McAvoy and SNL alum Bill Hader are likely to be reliable as ever, but my personal favourite piece of child-to-adult casting is that of James Ransone, who replaces Jack Dylan Grazer as the hypochondriac, worrisome Eddie. Grazer was easily the most surprising delight of the first film, outdoing even his formidable co-stars (It may well have featured the best child cast of the century) to become the stand-out performer. Ransone not only looks almost exactly the same as Grazer; his turn in The Wire as Ziggy Sobotka shows he has the capacity for the same wide-eyed itchiness as Grazer did. It’s perfect casting.
I’m more curious than excited, however, to see how the filmmakers tackle the growing pains that come with being an adult and visiting your hometown. Granted, the pains will likely be much worse for this particular bunch – they did almost get killed by an insane clown demon the last time around, after all – but there’s something here about childhood trauma that feels perfect for Muschietti to explore, even if he’s also got the weight of perhaps the genre’s biggest ever sequel on his shoulders.
Whatever the case, It: Chapter Two has the unique advantage of hindsight. It was hilarious seeing It in the cinema nearly two years ago when the full title of It: Chapter One was revealed. I remember one fellow audience member saying something like, “Oh, of course there has to be a sequel!” His annoyance is obviously misguided, since the full It has always been told in two parts. But it also speaks to the strengths that splitting the story into two films brings. Chapter Two won’t be a meaningless, money-grabbing sequel, but (hopefully) a thoughtful continuation of an epic story.