It Follows has generally been regarded by critics and audiences as one of the best horror films of the year, maybe even the decade, so naturally I had to watch it. I was lucky enough to get it on BLLLLLLLLUUUUUUU-RRRAAAYYYYYYY to play it on my BLLLLLLLLUUUUUUU-RRRAAAYYYYYYY PLAYYYYAAAAAA (I really like my Blu-ray player).
I've been meaning to write, generally, about the state of indie filmmaking in present cinema. The people who grew up on VHS and trash cinema in the 80s are now old enough to be making movies, and their collective influences and affinities have permeated their chosen medium. Cold in July, The Guest, Blue Ruin, Kung Fury, and more importantly It Follows, are enigmatic of the resurgence of the 80s vibe in modern indie filmmaking. Synth-y scores, bright color schemes, and a bastardized mix of genres are the qualities that not only pay tribute to the films of the 80s, but also make up the identity of these post-modern movies. I love this movement in modern filmmaking and I can't get enough.
Enough about that, more about It Follows. It's about this girl Jay (Maika Monroe (editorial note: I'm in love)), a girl who could be fifteen or could be twenty-three, the movie is ambiguous about that (more on that later). She sleeps with this cool older guy named Hugh, cute in a "he's the only not-disgusting guy in this dumpy midwestern town" kinda way. After she sleeps with him he tells her in the most frightening way possible that she will continue to be followed by a mysterious stranger, a monster, an entity, that will kill her. The only way to get rid of her curse is to pass it on to someone else, by having sex with them.
From the first frame of the film, something is just off. That's the only way to describe it. Like a picture frame that's tilted just slightly. You can't pinpoint what's wrong, you just feel it. The ambiguous setting of the story (could be an alternate universe alá Dogtooth, could be the 80s, we aren't sure) and the underlying tension writer-director David Robert Mitchell brings to the table gives the film's first-half hour a palpable uneasiness, as he slowly brings his audience closer to his characters as well as their danger.
The direction pays tribute to 80s slasher and John Hughes' movies, all while maintaining his own unique flavor. But the writing is decent as well; the characters, setting, and set-up are constructed flawlessly. I can't name a movie other than It Follows that shows a girl farting. These are kids bordering on adulthood. They are childlike, but like Jay, they all have adult-aspirations. They've been friends their whole lives and that plays out seamlessly through the trio's first few scenes.
I've been told repeatedly that this premise is soooo original and it's sooo clever. I'll disagree. This is not only an unoriginal premise, it's a dumb one. Something slowly walks toward you and doesn't smile ahhhhh. That being said, it is executed extremely well. No, it's not original, but it's originally scary. Very few horror films (except for The Babadook) are actually scary, and It Follows has its fair share of scares, albeit some of those are cheap jump scares.
I can't entirely agree with the blank-cheque adoration this film has been receiving. I'm not alone; Tarantino loved it but had problems with it. The film works until about half-way through, when Jay sleeps with the other cool older neighborhood major cutie Greg (Daniel Zovatto). She's done with It then, right? Because she had sex with him, she'll pass it on? No? Okay.
The movie stops following its own rules at this point. Also, it becomes a dumb horror movie, only, instead of breaking its own rules and getting stupid in the first twenty minutes like 99% of horror movies, this one waits until you're knee-deep in the thing. The monster still follows her, even though she had sex. We don't know how she can kill it.
When Jay doesn't look behind her, the monster tries to kill her, and it's laughably stupid (it looks like Kevin Bacon's Hollow Man attacking these teenagers). It was better when we were afraid of the monster, not actually seeing it try anything.
Then at some point the plucky kids decide to electrocute the monster or something? They tried to shoot it seven times and it didn't kill it, so surely electrocution is their best bet. They go to the local Y to utilize the swimming pool, but not before bringing every anachronistic piece of electronic equipment they can get their hands on (remember how good the first half of the movie was?). I couldn't help thinking of The Goonies. Jay gets in the water (this is the DUMBEST idea--one TV falls in the water and she's done, but okay). Then, instead of dumping the TV in the water like I just said, the monster starts hurling objects at Jay. As smart as this movie is and as smart as the idea is, this monster is a fucking moron. Then, get this, all they have to do is shoot the monster. Wait, didn't that not work like seven times in a row earlier?
Then the movie just, kind of ends. I love this movie because of the 80s feel, the general dread that festers in every frame, the fun. I hate this movie for being a dumb movie. I suspect Mitchell wrote and directed the first half, then the producers hijacked the second half and bent it to their will (citation needed).
Watch it on Blu-ray. Watch it and tell me I'm wrong. It's scary as hell, fun, original (somewhat), and it does it all without being a blood bath. The film succeeds most of all as a coming-of-age story. Monroe is innocence personified and dominates the screen. This Scream Queen has a bright future in Tinseltown.
I'll buy this on Blu-ray at some point, even if I only watch the beginning ad infinitum. It is just that good. But, like the monster in the movie, this movie will haunt you after you watch it. You won't be able to stop thinking about it, it will be every where you look, and the only way to get rid of it is to pass it along. Get someone else to watch it.
Oh, so It Follows was about rape. Or was it STDs?