Pennywise is returning, and the Losers’ Club might not like it, but film critics are pretty psyched.
It: Chapter Two has been screened for professional reviewers, and most are in agreement that the flick is a worthy follow-up to 2017’s smash hit It: Chapter One, and that together, the two movies represent one of the better Stephen King adaptations ever put to film.
Of course, given some of the King adaptations over the years, that’s not a particularly high bar. King’s 1986 novel It tells the story of a group of outcast youths who must confront the evil plaguing their small town of Derry, Maine, one which appears most often in the guise of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. During a battle in the sewers below the streets of Derry, the “Losers’ Club” manages to severely wound It and drive It back into hibernation, but they fail to finish the job. When It returns over a quarter century later, It’s all too eager for a rematch with the now-adult Losers, and it’s got a couple new tricks up its sleeve. Bill Skarsgård was praised far and wide for his performance as Pennywise in Chapter One, and that trend continued with the second installment, with many critics noting that director Andy Muschietti’s decision to give Pennywise less screen time actually served to make him even scarier.
Brian Truitt of USA Today wrote: “Andy Muschietti deploys Pennywise sparingly; it’s a smart decision, because it makes the villain’s appearances special, and Skarsgård finds new ways to totally freak you out, even in a surprisingly human fashion.”
Katie Smith-Wong of Flick Feast agreed, praising the performances of the entire cast while singling out Skarsgård in particular: “Overall, It: Chapter Two reminds audiences that horror film sequels can be good, with Skarsgård reinforcing Pennywise’s position as the scariest clown ever.” The entire cast was on the receiving end of plenty of critical kudos, but none quite so much as Bill Hader, the Saturday Night Live vet who has proven adept at folding a little darkness into his hilarious persona with his HBO series Barry.
Bill Goodykoontz’s review in Arizona Republic stated: “Everyone in the cast is good, [James] Ransone as the hypochondriac Eddie, who never ceases complaining, is welcome comic relief. But Hader rises above the rest. If you’ve seen Barry… [then] you know he has no problem blending comedy and drama. In this case, he adds horror to the mix, and he’s just as good at that, too.” But with a novel as thematically dense and challenging as the source material, a crackerjack cast will get you nowhere without an expertly crafted script and assured direction, and fortunately, Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman came through.
Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell wrote the movie might make anyone fear clowns: “Muschietti has managed to craft a series of chilling set pieces designed to give everyone a touch of coulrophobia. While there’s nothing in the sequel that a die-hard horror fan won’t have seen before, the set pieces are so effectively done that they’ll have an impact regardless.”
Alex Godrey of Empire also gushed over the dedication to craft apparent throughout the sequel, saying: “A psychologically merciless sequel, everything here is as it should be: deeper, scarier, funnier. Muschietti in particular has stepped up, skilfully guiding us through a rollicking funhouse. It is obscenely entertaining.” Of course, not every film can please every critic, and even some of It: Chapter Two’s positive reviews said that it may have been a bit of a letdown from the first film. The film’s beefy run time at just under three hours was a sticking point for some reviewers, including
Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt, who wrote: “The main problem with Chapter Two is that it goes on, and on, for so very long. If brevity is not necessarily the soul of a good scare, it would certainly serve a story that sends in the clowns, and then lets them just stay there, leering and lurking and chewing through scene after scene, until the there’s nothing left to do but laugh, or leave.” Still others, like A.V. Club’s Katie Rife, faulted the flick for its perceived failure to deliver the one thing that would have made up for having your butt glued to theater seat for the better part of three hours: actual scares.
“The film isn’t an abject failure by any means; it has some funny jokes, a couple of really good performances, impressive creature and set design, and pleasing cinematography. But when it comes down to it, It: Chapter Two just isn’t all that scary.” The flick’s naysayers, though, were firmly in the minority camp, and by most accounts, Muschietti and his cast and crew have stepped up to deliver a thrilling one-two punch, a fitting take on what many fans consider to be King’s greatest work.