Movie Review: It Follows
(Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, including graphic nudity, and language)
I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again: the Horror genre is a tough one for me to love. Much like Action, the genre is often full of so many of the same tired cliches, that it’s hard for me to want to see one of these films. But every once in awhile, some ‘odd’ little entity of a film can catch my eye, and in the last few weeks, the previews for It Follows did just that.
Aint It Cool News had some ads on their site, but it was when I saw a preview before a midnight showing of Who Framed Roger Rabbit a week ago, did this film really excite me. Why? Because, their horror-movie trailer, was the first one I had seen in forever…that didn’t end with a lame jump-scare. Admit it: any Hollywood-funded Horror film seems to have a clause that their horror trailers must have one. But It Follows was an independent production that broke the spell, and I found myself sitting down to watch this film.
It Follows takes place in a suburban neighborhood in Michigan. Late one evening, a girl in her late teens named Jay (Maika Monroe), makes love to a guy she knows named Hugh (Jake Weary). However, the evening then takes an unexpected turn, when he drugs her, and she wakes up tied to a wheelchair.
Hugh then explains that he has passed something on to her. It is an unknown presence that Hugh only describes as “It,” and that can only be seen by those that are “cursed.” The only way to get rid of It, is to pass the “curse” onto someone else, which Hugh has done to Jay through intercourse. However, he does warn her, that It can take on the form of anyone, be it random, or someone you know. It cannot pass through walls, and though you can run away from it, It will eventually catch up to you. Those that are cursed can pass the curse onto someone else through intercourse, but if that person dies from It, It will then come back to kill you, and proceed back on down the chain.
Of course, like a rational teenager, Jay realizes she can’t tell the adults or authorities, and instead confides in her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), and several of their friends. Fortunately, they are willing to believe her, and try to do what they can to help her against this unseen entity.
I went into It Follows not placing it on a pedestal given all the hype…but I will say it surprised me (and most of the audience) with what it did! Most of what you would normally expect from horror films, really gets thrown out the window with this. It’s like your BS-meter for horror films got stuck in the Bermuda Triangle, and pretty soon, you’re unable to just watch the film calmly. After awhile, my eyes were darting all over the screen.
That’s part of the fun of this film: much like you don’t know the form of what It will take, you can’t trust the camera (are we looking at It coming at Jay?), or even the music, which throws out plenty of red herrings.
Speaking of the music, the score is largely synth-music, composed by a group called Disasterpiece. There’s not a lot of major melodies, but the way the composer raises and lowers the pitch on even a few notes, is enough to really toy with the audience. I’m sure many will be thinking of the scores to several of John Carpenter’s productions once they hear it too.
It helps that the characters in the film never reach the level of repulsion in most horror films, where you can’t wait to see them offed one-by-one. None of them are perfect, but they never reach “stereotype” levels of behavior that one is used to. There are no major drama queens, and heck, even given what he does, Hugh doesn’t become a typical one-note villain. Another big shocker is Jay. She does not spend most of the time as a babbling mess of anxiety and worry, but maybe that’s because she actually has reliable friends in this film.
The best I could describe what the “It” is, is as some sort of Boogeyman-like Terminator. Heck, normally when it comes at you, it’s often at a slow-and-steady pace almost akin to the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Plus, just what It can do…well, you have to see it to believe it. In one scene, I had no idea what to expect…and when It happened, a ripple of shock rolled through the auditorium!
David Robert Mitchell’s film feels like a breath of fresh air for something new, and it’s not often I can say that about a film. This is the kind of film that it feels you can sit down with your friends afterwards, and actually have a discussion regarding what you saw. Heck, I walked with a friend a few blocks to a nearby supermarket afterwards, and we were discussing certain things we both saw, and some revelations I had missed!
As well, Mitchell’s style of less-is-more, reminded me a little of director Ti West. West’s films are of the horror/suspense type, and work to really set a mood and scene. If you have an open mind, I’d recommend West’s In The House of the Devil, and The Innkeepers, which might be of interest if you like It Follows.
It can get a little confusing regarding some of the smaller details. For example, though we see Jay and her friends hanging out, we don’t see Jay’s parents for much of the film. It does seem odd that an adult/family presence is missing for much of the film. Then again, it could be the filmmakers playing on those older films wherein the situation is largely the problem of the young.
Just what year or time everyone is in is hard to say. The environment and soundtrack make one think it could be the 1980’s, but the vehicles seem modern day. As well, I don’t recall the use of cellular (or even rotary) phones. One oddity is a little clamshell reader that one girl named Yara (Olivia Luccardi) reads from, but it’s the only piece of “future-tech” we seem to see.
In conclusion, It Follows has already earned the spot in my personal category, of Great Film(s) that noone saw in theaters. These are usually reserved for those smaller-release pictures that will never get as big of a notice as the bigger budget films. It’s also the first film I’ve seen in a long time that actually lives up to its hype.
It is being released to Video On Demand soon, but I’d recommend seeing it in an actual theater if you can. This was one of those experiences where being in a room with several hundred other people, actually brought about a much different atmosphere than in one’s home. Then again, I could just imagine someone getting so into this film, watching it in their apartment…when suddenly…there’s a knock at the door.
Final Grade: A- (Final Thoughts: Those who go into this expecting the norm for horror, prepare to be disappointed. For everyone else, I have a feeling you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise)