tue 19/11/2019

It Chapter Two review – time to stop clowning around | reviews, news & interviews

It Chapter Two review – time to stop clowning around

It Chapter Two review – time to stop clowning around

The return of Stephen King's killer clown is gobbled up by its own plotting

Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan have seen it all before in It Chapter Two

Just two years after It Chapter One became the most successful horror film ever made, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is once again giving the American town of Derry absolutely nothing to laugh about. But this time around it’s audiences who may feel unable to enjoy the irony of a killer clown. For Chapter Two feels like a pointless, nay horrific case of déjà vu. 

Andy Muschietti’s decision to divide his adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel into two – the first part dealing with the characters as children, the second with their adult selves – initially seemed a strong conceit. The first part brilliantly delivered unsettling horror alongside a touching tale of childhood camaraderie in extremis

However, the reprise doesn’t fare nearly so well. For starters, the narrative ties to the earlier film – in the form of constant explication and back and forth between past and present – create a serious drag on the action. And then there’s the fact that, despite the starry cast, these older versions are nowhere near as engaging as the kids. And the flashbacks never allow us to forget that. To recap. In 1988 seven outsider-teens band together to battle the supernatural creature which literally feeds off the fear of the town’s children, before murdering them. The friends succeed in sending the fiend into hibernation, making a pact that if It ever returns, so will they. 

Now, 27 years later, the gruesome murders start over. But during an overly fussy opening, one could be forgiven for struggling to remember all seven kids and deduce who of the adult actors is playing who. When the dust has settled, the most notable are James McAvoy as Bill, the leader of the group when young, now a writer; Jessica Chastain as Bev, a fashion designer who has swapped an abusive father for an abusive husband; and Bill Hader as Ritchie, childhood motormouth turned stand-up comedian. 

Before taking on the demon for a second time, they must first combat their repressed memories; they’re scared to return, but can’t remember why. While such trauma should be thematic gold (particularly as it’s caused as much by Derry’s population of evil parents and bigoted bullies as it is Pennywise), Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman have their hands too full of characters and plotlines to mine it with any consistency. When they do nail something, for example Ritchie’s closeted homosexuality, we’re reminded of the first film’s poignant punch. 

As before, the film is at its most chilling whenever Bill Skarsgård’s exceedingly creepy clown seduces his young victims; this startling performance really is the stuff of nightmares. But everything around him feels hectically systematic – each character duly isolated and terrorised in turn, before remarkably getting off the hook – and so very predictable. 

Despite the starry cast, these older versions are nowhere near as engaging as the kids


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.