Friday, October 9, 2015
Review: "It Follows" is Old-Fashioned Scary Movie Gold
[A version of this review first appeared on Patreon.]
It Follows (2014)
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language
WRITER/DIRECTOR: David Robert Mitchell
PRODUCERS: Rebecca Green, David Kaplan, Erik Rommesmo, and Laura D. Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Gioulakis
EDITOR: Julio Perez IV
COMPOSER: Rich Vreeland (as Disasterpeace)
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Debbie Williams, and Baily Spry
It Follows is a 2014 supernatural horror film from writer-director David Robert Mitchell. The film focuses on a young woman who discovers that her life has taken a mysterious and sinister turn after a casual sexual encounter transmits a curse to her. The film was released to North American theaters in March of 2015.
It Follows introduces Jaime “Jay” Height (Maika Monroe), a carefree college student living at home with her parents and sister in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. She starts dating a young man named Hugh (Jake Weary), who is determined to have sexual intercourse with her. Eventually, Jay does have sex with Hugh in the backseat of his car, after which, he incapacitates her.
Jay awakens to find herself tied to a wheelchair. Hugh explains that through sex he has passed on a curse to Jay. A malignant entity that is visible only to those that have received the curse will now pursue Jay at a walking pace. Even if Jay were to go far away, it would relentlessly pursue her at a walking pace and find her regardless of how long that would take. The entity can take on many different appearances, and if it catches Jay, it will kill her. To free herself of this entity, Jay must have have sex with a new partner and pass it on to that person...
It Follows is a kind of old-fashioned horror movie. The directing, acting, plot, score, and cinematography, but not special effects is what makes this movie work. I would say that the score, sometimes layered synthesizer and sometimes pounding keys, is some of the best film music in a horror film since John Carpenter's 1978 film, Halloween. In fact, It Follows may be the truest heir to Carpenter's classic slasher flick.
It Follows is creepy, and when the music isn't making the viewer's skin crawl, the wide screen cinematography, with its matter-of-fact eye and its surreal interpretations, takes that viewer to the edge of his seat. Mitchell, his cinematographer (Mike Gioulakis), and his editor (Julio Perez IV) are at their best when they blithely depict the approach of the entity as if it were delivering a candy-gram and not savage death. I have to say that as good as the cast is, Mitchell, Gioulakis, and Perez could have achieved the same blood-chilling results with a wildly different cast.
The general interpretation of It Follows is that it is a parable about sex, concerning sexually-transmitted diseases (AIDS), the sexual revolution, and/or anxieties around intimacy. The film can also be seen as thematically addressing mortality, with “it” or the entity representing the inevitability of death or perhaps, the existential dread of one's inevitable demise.
I think the film's Detroit and Detroit-area locales can open the film up to socioeconomic and political interpretations. If the suburbs are a safe haven from the dangers of urban Detroit, suburbanites would naturally expect that they left or passed on the troubles, dangers, and problems of the city to “them,” those other people they left behind. “It” the entity is a trouble that one passes on to another, like a problem that is out of sight or out of mind, except that it doesn't work that way. “White flight” might allow one to ignore trouble, but that does not mean the trouble ceased to exist.
Eventually, the person who passes on the curse will have to deal with the trouble of the entity again. Several times in It Follows, the story takes the characters through the abandoned, desolate, ruined landscape of Detroit “south of 8 Mile.” One of the characters might be tempted to leave his troubles in the “slums,” but he knows that “it,” like many problems, cannot be stopped by walls or borders – real or imagined.
Ultimately, It Follows has dream or nightmare-like qualities that push it closer to the realms of horror and dark fantasy and a little away from social themes and artistic interpretations. Although it stumbles a little in the last act, It Follows is a chilling contemporary thriller that harkens back to the stylish, classic horror movies of the past. It is skillful rather than ironic (like the first Scream film). It is scary and scary again.
7 of 10
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
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