It Follows

It Follows photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgSo Jay and her boyfriend, Hugh, have consensual sex. Afterwards everything seems pleasant enough, but suddenly he drugs her and ties her to a chair. His intention is for her to visually acknowledge a presence that is now beholden to pursue her. Seeing is believing. That entity is a shapeshifting creature that can assume the appearance of any person, either a stranger or someone you know. It advances by walking slowly, as a zombie would, with the sole purpose to kill the accursed victim. Hugh explains that in order to get rid of this “boogeyman” she must likewise be intimate with another person. The set-up is sort of a rewrite of The Ring but with STDs instead of a video tape. “Because horror movies were just getting too classy,” I carped when I originally read that description. Despite the tawdry construct, It Follows is far more stylish than the great majority of horror films.

These entitled white teens live in a world seemingly devoid of parents. There’s our lead heroine Jay, a 19 year old college student living in the suburbs of Detroit. Actress Maika Monroe compares favorably with iconic scream queens like Jamie Lee Curtis or Adrienne Barbeau. . She’s perhaps a bit more vulnerable with her doe-eyed looks but captivating nonetheless. It would appear that she hasn’t been seeing her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) for that long. However he is someone with whom she has formed a connection. Jay hangs out with a tight knit group of friends as well. There’s her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), buddy Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and nerdy lovestruck Paul (Keir Gilchrist). There’s also her neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), a cool operator with the ladies. Johnny Depp would’ve played this guy in 1984.

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell has only released two films, but It Follows looks and sounds like the work of an experienced auteur. It’s a throwback to seminal horror of the late 70s and early 80s. The atmosphere invokes old John Carpenter movies you’d watch on VHS tapes. The production is a testament to how important cinematography and music are able to easily evoke a mood. The soft focus gives the proceedings the veneer of music videos from MTV’s infancy. Languid shots of the photogenic faces of young adults who do appear to have a more reflective take on their own predicament than the typical juveniles of this genre. Music is by Disasterpeace, the nom de plum of Rich Vreeland. His elegant synthesizer pieces are so expressive. I fantasize about him throwing some really exclusive dinner party where the guest list includes composers Cliff Martinez and Mica Levi. Oh man I’d love to get an invitation to that get together. His work recalls John Carpenter’s theme from Halloween and Giorgio Moroder’s score for Cat People . I think it’s even set during that era. Check out that ancient black and white TV set with 13 channels and there isn’t a computer in sight.

What defines “it” in It Follows is actually never quite understood either by these characters or correspondingly by the audience. What we do know is that physical intimacy is how you become afflicted. It’s too easy to draw analogies to an STD so I’ll spare you the metaphors. Sex = death in most horror movies but this one actually encourages adolescents to keep doing it in order to alleviate their plight. Once Jay has been brought into the ordeal, she is forever fearful of being pursued. That stalker can take the form of a stranger. It might appear as a loved one. The narrative brilliantly details this fear until the final quarter where it falls apart complete with a hazy conclusion. The screenplay doesn’t hold up in the end but for most of this feature, it’s pretty entertaining. Its artistic aspirations have some critics hailing this as the best horror film in years. So let’s think about that for a minute. Uh survey says (pause) “X” buzzer sound. Sorry The Babadook easily holds that title. That is a modern classic and should keep the distinction for awhile. Even underrated gems like Oculus and Sinister might vie for 2nd place. But It Follows is extremely good. A possible contender for finest horror flick of 2015. The year’s not over yet. Script deficiencies are where it comes up short but in terms of cinematic mood, It Follows is a handsomely made film.

03-26-15

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14 Responses to “It Follows”

  1. That’s really funny re: lack of parents. On several occasions I was wondering whether Mitchell was trying to make some statement out of the lack of parental guidance/support in this, but I don’t think that was an intention. Unless it was, and my overthinking for once benefited me. Haha. I took to the ending quite well actually, it will undoubtedly frustrate many though. As well as the pacing/lack of those “jump scares.” Which do not have any place in a film this good.

  2. GaryGreg828 Says:

    Dude, you need to see “Starry Eyes”!!! 🙂 It came out late last year and has a similar feel as this. I’d say Starry Eyes is the best horror to come out in a while. It was my top film of 2014, not just horror, but film in general.

    And you said “Babadook” was the best horror film for you in years, but you are mistaken; that would be “Under the Skin” your top film of 2014. 🙂

    I’m just messing with you. I’m assuming you consider UTS a sci-fi and not a horror.

    • I thought about Under the Skin, which, as you correctly assert, was my #1 movie of 2014. But yeah I decided it isn’t a horror film, although it certainly has those elements.

      I’ll have to check Starry Eyes out. One of the things I really like about It Follows is that the emphasis is not on violence & gore but more building dread from a constant unrelenting presence.

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        I also love horror films that are subtle and don’t rely on gore and violence. And I love horror films that are violent as long as it has an interesting story and a point…

        But as far as “Starry Eyes” it does have a strong build-up w/ no violence…but then the 3rd act has an absolute BRUTAL sequence that is hard to look at. But THAT sequence isn’t why the film is intriguing. The score/soundtrack is heavily synthesized like “It Follows” but I think the score is even better. It reminded me a bit of “Phantasm”. The movie had a 70’s horror vibe. Which is an incredible compliment!

        *Also, “The Guest” is a horror/action with another synthesized score and stars the same main girl as “It Follows”. It came out December of 2014 and is also worth adding to the queue. It co-stars that same dude from “Faults”. He plays the main girl’s father.

      • Oh yes I’ve got The Guest in my Netflix queue. It actually came out in September of 2014 but it never expanded beyond 53 theaters total so wasn’t able to find a theater playing it.

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Good deal. Looking forward to a review. Hopefully you like it.

        I just watched a new drama on netflix called “Something, Anything” about a young woman who reevaluates her career and makes drastic changes and sacrifices in her life as she deliberates what her true purpose is, etc. It’s actually masterfully executed. I think you’d enjoy it. Would love to read what you think about it.

  3. You mention Babadook at the end of your review, and I must admit, that one sounded REALLY stupid to me, but I’ve been hearing so much rave about it that I think I’ll just have to give in and rent it from Redbox. I’m not convinced I’ll like it (based on the plot), but if it’s anything up to par with what every critic and his dog have been hailing, and any bit as clever as its tagline (which I freaking LOVE), then I’ll probably enjoy it.

    About It Follows: I really, really, really want to see this movie. Unfortunately it had such low attendance at my theater (nearly every showing had between 2 and 20 people) that it’s no longer playing (and only had night showings last week), but I’m willing to pay to see it at another theater. The trailer, for some reason or another, reminded me of Friday the 13th.

  4. I’d agree that in spite of the tawdry setup in It Follows, the film itself is pretty damn stylish. I thoroughly enjoyed its throwback vibe to horror of the late 70s and early 80s. The score’s heavy use of synthesizer is super creepy. And while I concur that the ending isn’t as strong as it should be, I don’t think that the film unravels as much as you’re saying. I liked how the ambiguous ending left you unsure as to whether they’ll ever actually get away from this mysterious force, although I would have appreciated more explanation about the monster itself. Personally, I liked this film more than The Babadook, which also was very strong in the beginning. For me The Babadook fell apart once the mother and son swapped places. I felt like it got campy after that. Plus I was never really scared by that movie. It Follows actually scared the crap out of me for its premise and for the constant atmosphere of dread it created. Jump scares actually caused me to jump.

    • That’s interesting how fear works in these horror movies. I didn’t think this movie was scary. Just eerie. Despite the lackluster ending, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

  5. This was very eerie. I was kinda scared it was going to be raunchy. Glad it wasn’t. Pretty creative and creepy story. 3 1/2 stars.

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