You'll float too.
Man, it really seems like I'm on some kind of anti-kid streak with this movie selection lately eh? Setting that coincidental queue flow aside, a more open question would be haven't we been here before? Well, it has all the setups to be something that everyone hates - a version that people can already call nostalgically "their version", being based on a book so all the worms can cry foul, and set in a horror genre where people can feast cliches ad nauseum - and yet, I heard nothing but good things about it. In a world slathered by people jumping to nay-say at the slightest movie produced, could this be golden chalice upon a fabled table, or is this the one time things are supposed to be good and I find myself in the hole of disappointment?
So much baggage in this movie, so let's lay down the fight rules shall we? I know there's a book - I haven't read it. I know there's another (made for TV) movie - I have watched it, a few times, and enjoy it in it's doofy campy glory. We are gonna try and judge this on it's own merits as usual though, because not everyone is going to have done all that other stuff to influence their opinions on things, and maybe at the end of it I'll get into how I feel it compares to the other movie, since of the existing that's the one I've actually consumed. The other thing I'd like to throw out there is that this thing is a part one of (two or three one would assume) - so I largely except most comparisons you could do to the old stuff is also only a partial if you wanted to go that way.
The plot is a bit like a dark Goonies here, in the sense that a group of kids band together to save their town. In this case, however, it's saving not only their town but their own skins from an evil beast on a loop cycle of stealing kids in a town full of horrible people. The pack of kids here is pretty substantial in size, but the overall pacing ends up being pretty good, keeping things moving after a little bit of an initial setup to the characters. It isn't anything super elaborate, and it leaves some things a little up in the air (such as what really this clown is) by the time it comes to completion, it offers up what it needs to fill in a couple of character arcs while squeezing in any conceivable branch of scares you could get out of a horror movie. That said, and it may just be due to the sheer number of hour-and-a-half movies I've consumed lately, but the movie did feel a bit like it was longer than it actually was, despite never really feeling like it was dragging along.
The setting is in the past, although not crazy far in the past at least of the time of writing this, and it in turn brings around some things that we'd like to say aren't around anymore but I can assure you they are if you look far enough. This is probably where the intellectual audience will get more from the movie than any cheap thrills - if you want something to have a discord with others about, you can find in things from bad parenting, bullying, murder, fear, coping with loss, implied pedophilia - and overall just bad human-ing. I mean, really, there's a large section of this town that you wouldn't feel bad if they got eaten by some spooky sewer clown - such as oblivious adults or bullies so intense in bullying that they are literally carving other kids up. It's honestly to the point where it solidifies itself as being over-done, but the world never ceases to surprise me in how mundane even the dumbest movie character actions and reactions are in comparison to the real world.
Of course, the vast majority of actors here are the kids, all with their own "problems" to merit them being a big ole loser club. Stutters, being black, being a girl, being one stop short of living in a bubble - it's a gamut. These actors are all still kids though, and for being kids they do some pretty good jobs. There is a bit of a contrast that it causes sometimes that can feel a bit odd - for example, snapping from a kid about to get beat with a rock to a sudden shout of "rock war!" like it's some kind of game. It's an odd mood shift, but for the most part it works and ends up making things a bit more comical than I sometimes think they were intended to be - although the goofiness can be a nice break from the oppressive atmosphere elsewhere present. The few adults we see on screen long enough all do a good job, although to be perfectly honest the clown is probably one of the least frightening "adults" in the movie - which could be thought of us great commentary, or perhaps a villain slightly less threatening than intended.
The rendition of Pennywise on screen here is pretty good. He can look a bit less than approachable at times, but in general action - at least until he flips the creep switch - is something I could see an approachable clown doing. When the creep does get flipped to on, it certainly comes through in spades and ends up being so frequent that the character is really only ever not just a "terror" perhaps once or twice the entire film, and certainly probably for less than 10 minutes total screen time. The draw of something that preys on your spookiest fears is a great concept though, and really sets up for some great potential effects shots to go beyond clown makeup and a goofy frilly outfit though.
And right off the bat, this one doesn't just spell out that it's not for kids so much as roars it in your face. I wasn't quite ready for it the first time, but this movie doesn't shy away from being a blood-soaked mess. Sure, a lot of things are more darkly lit, but when it comes to the gore effects you'll get people getting sliced up in bright and sunny day, all the way down to arms getting chomped off and bones broken. If you didn't bother to look at the rating first, you wont be left wondering for long. A good deal of the effects look as though they could certainly just be practical things, but it's certainly blatant at times that things have been touched up. Some even really feel as though it was meant to be seen in 3D - which I don't recall the movie having to be honest, and the overall darkness of the movie really wouldn't help if it were in 3d.
Now, audio was generally a bit of a mixed bag for me, and I had honestly thought about swapping to headphones at one point or another when I saw my subtitles telling me something was said that I didn't hear - largely, I believe this is an issue with my watching setup, as it wouldn't be the first time that a speaker just didn't want me to hear something because it deemed it too quiet. Beyond that though, there was a lot of fun songs, but it falls back to that "clashing moods" moment I mentioned before - lets have a nice upbeat song while we clean a blood soaked room in a montage, or a bangin' rock and roll number during the battle of rocks thrown at the stream. On the other hand, the backing scores do a wonderful job of ratcheting tension and adding to the horror mood as well, even with some blatant scare set ups.
The scares themselves will be a per-person thing. I don't find the jitter-step spooky, but I know people who can't do it in the slightest - just like some people can't do zombies, or clowns, or gross. In that respect, it does a pretty good job of playing on a wide range of fears, to the extent that some don't even come off as frightening and seem more humorous- such as the evil dance towards the end. Still, that sort of off-kilter motion stabilizing probably has someone disturbed straight to max, despite seeming just goofy or perhaps a bit nauseating - although it technically fits the mentality of the other player in the scene.
It's overall pretty good. I can't agree entirely with the folks that I've heard say it was terrifying, but (and here's where we get into a comparison to the old one to some extent) it's certainly more terrifying than what we had. While the old one had it's charm and camp, this one plays itself more seriously with moments of laughs (be it intentional or not). With that being the case, I'd argue that it's actually one of the better things a remake can be - similar in concept but different enough in presentation that it doesn't feel like a copy. As a stand alone movie, it holds well with good effects and some pretty decent kid actors, backed by a variety of different scare attempts and some nice tension scores to back it. Given it's pedigree as being only part of an overall story however, it does leave some things floating around to be answered perhaps later on.