Once the film does get to the frights, however, they’re surprisingly effective as both a ride and genuine terror. The special effects have been used wisely here to create frightening figures to play on the fears of the kids. Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a hypochondriac and is haunted by a grotesquely diseased zombie that ambles towards him. Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) is afraid of a painting at his synagogue, appearing as a distorted woman that comes to life to try to eat his face.
Most of the horror elements are more fun for their conception and presentation, as in an eyes-widening scene of a giant Pennywise protruding from a projection inside an enclosed space, easily able to swallow the kids whole at such a size. But then, just as with the extended Georgie scene, there are some honestly creepy moments that caught me off-guard. The bar has been raised for scary kid ghosts, but the moment when Bill is finally reunited with Georgie’s supposed spirit was surprisingly emotional.
One aspect of the film I found most pleasing was the soundtrack. Modern horror movies seem to go for the predictable intensity of ratcheting up terror in the tracks. This score by Benjamin Wallfisch, however, feels uniquely operatic and allows the film to breathe at times when Pennywise isn’t scrambling towards his next child to munch on.
The biggest criticism I’ve initially heard about the remake of It is that Pennywise doesn’t look as convincing as a clown, sound as creepy as Tim Curry or have the intimidation of being a subtler force of evil. He doesn’t have to be; the clown doesn’t matter. We spend more time with the Losers Club of kids than we do Pennywise and they’re by far the best part of the film. For all the film’s technical achievements of a haunted house, an underground lair of floating corpses and monsters that can spawn from any hole big or small, its greatest achievement is that the kids feel like kids and not just a template of children to be plugged in for a horror scenario. The many moments of hilarious squabbles, riding bikes towards the next clue, hanging out at the quarry and defending themselves against bullies turn the picture into a sweet adventure movie at times. Or at least an Amblin adventure picture where, you know, kids lose their arms and a clown wants to brutally murder all of them.