Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary. Directed by David Robert Mitchell. (2014, 100 min). ANCHOR BAY
We've all had those dreams that start off as fairly mundane but soon turn horrific, taking us on an increasingly unpleasant, fatal and surreal journey where feelings of powerlessness and inevitability become overwhelming. These dreams don't let us stop to question what's happening to us or why. Our options are to run or fight back, and both efforts are futile because the only escape from what's stalking us is to wake up.
It Follows plays a lot like those dreams. Unlike, say, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Phantasm, two films which use surrealism to superficially set-up bizarre horror sequences which few viewers could actually relate to, It Follows chooses a more subtle path. After an attention-grabbing opening sequence showing the ambiguous and disturbing death of a young woman, we meet Jay (Maika Monroe), a typical suburban college student who hangs out with lifelong friends when she isn't in class. But after having sex with Hugh, a boy she's been dating, a malevolent entity (which can take several human forms) begins stalking her...always walking, never running...but never stopping. You can outrun it temporarily, but it will inevitably find you unless you pass the curse on to someone else by having sex with them.
That's the simplistic gist of It Follows, which doesn't really do it justice because it plays more like those horribly real dreams we've all had: Something awful is coming and there's nothing these characters can ultimately do about it. This feeling is exasperated when the film later appears to intentionally break its own establish rules regarding this so-called curse. While not literally presented as a nightmare, writer/director David Robert Mitchell has obviously tried to instill an ambiguous, dreamlike quality to his film. These kids' parents are often mentioned, but never actually seen, nor is the "it" of the title ever explained (a nice touch I truly appreciated). Furthermore, one would be hard-pressed to establish exactly when this film takes place. Everyone is dressed in currently-fashionable clothes, and one character is consistently using an e-reader which doesn't yet exist, while her friends are watching old horror films on picture tube televisions, using land line telephones and driving around in 40-year-old cars.
Despite all these deceptively clever touches, the main question is whether or not It Follows is actually scary. That depends on what one wants out of a horror movie. If you like everything laid out in straightforward fashion (and everything explained) with lots of jump scares, the answer is a definite no (though a few segments will illicit true terror). The final scene could easily piss you off and make you think you've wasted your time. However, this is one of those slow-burning films that sticks with you, becoming more creepy and disturbing the more you think about it, especially that final scene. One could easily view this as the part of your nightmare when you wake up seconds before something truly horrible happens. In either case, any movie which can spark such love-it-or-loathe-it debates is definitely worth checking out, making It Follows worthy or your time.
- Audio Commentary by Various Critics
- Featurette: "A Conversation with Film Composer Disasterpeace"
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