Many a quality horror has fallen apart in the home stretch but I am happy to report IT Chapter Two provides a satisfying, if slightly uneven, conclusion to an iconic story.
The second film follows the now-adult Losers Club 27 years on, as they return home for a final confrontation with the shapeshifting monstrosity lurking in the sewers of Derry.
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Like the child cast of the first movie, the adult counterparts are uniformly excellent. Director Andy Muschietti and casting director Rich Delia have done an incredible job of finding believable matches for not only the central cast, but supporting characters only in a single scene.
Thankfully, the children of Chapter One - including a digitally de-aged Finn Wolfhard - are back for this installment and the relationship between older and younger actors is constantly reinforced through creative camera work which seamlessly cuts between past and present.
Kiwi boy Jay Ryan plays Ben Hascom and is responsible for some of the more light-hearted moments as his old friends to reconcile their chubby bestie with the rugged man handsoming his way through every scene.
Most of these moments come from Bill Hader, who brings his gangly brand of comedy to the role of Richie and infuses Chapter Two with some much-needed levity in between long stretches of darkness. Make no mistake, this is a darker film than its predecessor in multiple ways, with moments of visceral, supernatural horror on an entirely different scale to Chapter One.
There's also ugliness and violence of a more everyday form, particularly in the storyline of Beverly Marsh, played impeccably by Jessica Chastain. Her performance is faultless, but I do wish she was given a little more to do than pine after two of the male cast and suffer abuse.
While the entire cast of heroes is exceptional, the standout in Chapter Two is Pennywise the Dancing Clown himself.
Bill Skarsgard once more brings Pennywise to life with such a captivating mix of theatrical physicality and murderous, gleeful charisma that I can guarantee him a starring role in sexual nightmares worldwide for years to come.
Pennywise's defining trait is his ability to transform into whatever his victims fear most, but despite this inherently fantastical power, practical effects are still used where possible, keeping even the most impossible scenes from feeling hollow and CGI-laden.
And while you'd think a penchant for sewer-centric childmurder would make any character utterly unrelatable, Skarsgard somehow manages to inject this monster with a shred of humanity.
There were moments near the film's climax where I pitied Pennywise, who is, in a twisted way, also a child. A petulant, screaming, nightmare baby with an endless appetite, need for attention and fear of being alone. In one way or another, we've all been there.
Unfortunately, it's also in the film's climax that it loses its footing slightly. This isn't unexpected as the source material has an infamously bizarre third act (if you haven't read it, I promise it's stranger than you think - at one point a cosmic turtle vomits up the universe).
Muschietti wisely dials back on the most extreme elements from the book, but the result still feels messy and lacking the focus of the film's first half. Also, clocking in at almost three hours, Chapter Two could have spent a little longer in the edit suite.
But this doesn't majorly detract from the experience overall and I still found myself cheering in all the appropriate spots as the Losers Club learned to finally face their fears.
IT Chapter Two closes the book on the greatest modern horror story in worthy fashion. It's a film that's not only terrifying, but also touching, frequently funny and wildly imaginative.
This is horror with a big, black, bleeding heart.