Much like the first film’s score, Benjamin Wallfisch’s IT Chapter Two manages to both inspire and terrify, this time with a truly spine-chilling ninety minute musical experience.
27 Years Later opens the album with a surprisingly light and upbeat series of piano notes, and you almost start to settle into the rather peaceful nature of the music until you realise that it’s not actually peaceful at all; it’s apprehensive. Underneath the playful notes are some near-ominous strings, and through this you can start to see the incredibly sinister undertones of the entire track. Interestingly, Wallfisch’s first IT score also began in this way with the track Every 27 Years, and overall both tracks serve as near masterful introductions to their respective albums. The truly chilling atmosphere of the films is captured and established perfectly; initially misleading you towards hope before then subtly revealing hidden darkness beneath. Wallfisch’s first IT score handled atmosphere expertly, and it looks like he’s not letting us down with the sequel.
The next few tracks then continue along similar lines, with Memory cementing the sinister tone with a multitude of string instruments and a hint of rumbling brass towards the end of the piece, before then bringing back one of the more curious yet amazingly effective thematic elements of the first score; the “oranges and lemons” nursery rhyme. Wallfisch created some really unsettling compositions with this last time around, and given that its appearance here comes with a side of typical horror-esque strings and some rather unnerving musical distortion, I don’t think its usage here is going to be any more cheery either. Things do lighten up slightly with I Swear, Bill, which opens with an almost hopeful strings and piano combination, but this doesn’t last for long however as horror starts to settle for the final thirty seconds of the piece with tense strings and dark percussion. Henry Bowers then hammers this home with ninety seconds of rapid strings and some truly horrific-sounding distorted “oranges and lemons”-esque vocals.
Hope then returns again (albeit not for long) with Losers Reunited, a thankfully upbeat piece that plays heavily with the established piano and rather peaceful-sounding woodwinds. The track however only lasts for fifty seconds, and the brief ray of sunshine is then quickly enveloped in darkness by subsequent cue Echo, which uses deep brass and ominous strings to great effect in re-cementing the malevolent nature of IT. A rather curious-sounding “action” track is then up next; You Knew, a piece that utilises the intriguing musical distortion technique of the previous score on dark percussive beats in combination with repeating short string notes, making for quite an atmospheric and compositionally interesting cue overall.
Shokopiwah then changes things up a bit, opening with tense strings before then introducing these creepy, almost Middle Eastern-esque vocals along with some deep and dark Blade Runner 2049-style synth notes. The distortion then returns in full force, manipulating some very intense orchestral horror score to somehow make it sound even scarier than it likely already would have. The music then slows back down towards the end of the piece, with the strings from the beginning then to close things up. The Barrens then lightens the tone a tad with some near wondrous-sounding vocals and strings, which then segues nicely into The Clubhouse, a primarily woodwind and vocal-based piece that lifts the tone even further into hopeful territory.
Ominousity returns with incredible intensity in Mrs. Kersh, another piece that makes great use of the established distortion effect as it manipulates both vocals and orchestra to make for a spine-tinglingly creepy piece of music overall. Pennywise himself then makes an appearance in Dirty Little Secret, making an already pretty sinister track even scarier with a truly unnerving vocal performance over circus-style orchestra and more distorted nursery rhyme vocals. Things then take a turn for the solemn in Why Georgie?, a heartbreakingly sad cue that makes great use of low and long strings-based notes. Horror does make a short cameo towards the end of the piece with the now almost-typical distorted orchestral sounds, but for the most part it remains a quiet and rather hauntingly beautiful piece of music.
Back To Neibolt then brings together the vocals, dark strings and creepy background brass for a pretty sinister and foreboding opening minute before then switching up the tone slightly with more upbeat strings and hopeful piano notes accompanying action-esque brass, but this doesn’t last long however before the music then sinks back into the darkness for a rather apprehensive strings-based ending. This Is Where It Happened then brings the action/horror in full force, with rapid and incredibly intense strings combined with now heavily distorted nursery rhyme-style vocals.
This then serves as a pretty frightening introduction to an interestingly titled trinity of action cues; Very Scary, Scary and Not Scary At All. The first of the three very much lives up to its name, with loud brass and dramatic vocals delivering an oddly undistorted but highly effective onslaught of orchestral dread. The middle piece then bumps up the pace considerably with rapid percussion and rapidly firing bursts of horror-esque strings, before then seguing into the the final of the three; a cue which very much doesn’t hold to its titular promise, being comprised mostly of intense strings and intimidating percussive elements.
Dramatic brass plays a big part in the action finale of the album, which starts in the final minute of You Lied And I Died and then continues through into My Heart Burns There Too, a particularly frightening piece that plays heavily on both said brass and the traditional horror-style rapid strings. The distorted and highly disturbing vocals also make their return here, in a somehow even more terrifying manner than before. The strings then couple with deep synth for the opening of Spider Attack, which would sound quite Blade Runner 2049-y if not for the musical manipulation that pushes the track out of action and right into horror territory.
The rapid pace then slows down towards the end of subsequent cue You’re All Grown Up, hinting at a possible light at the end of the tunnel by introducing slow, pensive strings and low brass which then transition rather seamlessly into Nothing Lasts Forever, a solemn yet ever so slightly victorious strings-heavy piece. Here the distortion, the vocals, all the horror elements – they’re gone. It’s over. I wouldn’t exactly call it a happy piece of music, it’s more just…relieved. Peaceful. Considering the terrifying musical onslaught that the past ninety minutes of score have been, I must say this track is a welcome finale, and a well composed one at that.
Overall, Benjamin Wallfisch’s score to IT Chapter Two is very, very good. While I can’t say I’d recommend it for casual listening (given its rather spine-chilling nature), much like the first installment it is a truly remarkable experience. The album expertly captures the atmosphere of IT and embraces its horrific nature to great effect, and of particular note is the way the composer picks out elements from children’s nursery rhymes and then twists and distorts them into something completely petrifying. While I would perhaps say that the album is a little lengthy (ninety minutes is a long time for a horror score) it is extremely well composed, so hats off to Mr. Wallfisch for that.
All-in, IT’s a fantastic score, though due to its rather unnerving nature I can’t say I want to listen to it again. I’m still recovering from the first one.
Standout Cue: 43. Nothing Lasts Forever