This chick is toast
It Follows is directed by David Robert Mitchell and stars Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe.
If you think about it, there's a recurring trend going on in the horror movie industry recently, and that's the use of the word "it". Most recently, we have a modern day retelling of Stephen King's It and Trey Edward Shults' It Comes At Night. There's just something magical about the word "it" as opposed to "them" or "they" that allows "it" to be phrased effectively with several other appropriate words. And while titles like Them and They Live might be evidence against my point, there just seem to be more examples of horror movies using "it" as opposed to "them" or "they". Most good horror movies aim to leave a sense of ambiguity right off the bat for the viewer, puzzling them with a title that opens itself up to mean various things. That's exactly what happens with It Follows, a clever title that is bound to catch your attention right away because you are intrigued by what "it" could be, and what is meant by this "it" supposedly following someone or something.
Being a dedicated horror movie viewer is a frustrating business, because you never know when a horror movie will come out and both the critics and audiences can stand up and say, "Yes, I liked that. That's what a horror movie should be." If the horror movie is layered and bereft of cheap jump scares, most likely the critics will gush all over it, but the audience will give it the cold shoulder. If the horror movie is filled to the brim with jump scares and involves some sort of ghoulish monster thing, then more often than not the audiences will come buying tickets in droves, while the critics face palm and question why such an abomination was created. Now, bare with me, I know that sounds like I'm calling horror movie audiences stupid, but the financial success of so many awful horror movies over recent years makes it evident to me that audiences don't care about thinking horror films, only wanting some quick scares to get a short-lived thrill rush. They don't want to retain anything in their heads afterwards, and because they don't, I am naturally led to believe that horror audiences are not very bright.
Once in a great while comes along a horror movie like It Follows which has a premise that assumes the audience is paying attention and can see things between the lines. The movie promotes itself like a scary creature feature, but one that more easily compares to something like The Babadook, because a supposed creature feature like The Babadook is more concerned with issues that extend beyond building up to the reveal of a big monster.
It Follows centers on college student Jay Height (Maika Monroe), a perfectly normal college student who spends quality time with her boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary). The two go to the movies one night, where Hugh mentions a girl wearing a yellow dress that is standing in the back of the theater. Jay says she cannot see the girl, which frightens Hugh and makes him ask that they leave. The two then spend another date out in the middle of the woods in Hugh's car, where Hugh and Jay have sex. Shortly afterwards, Hugh knocks Jay out with chloroform, and he takes her away somewhere. Jay wakes up tied to a wheelchair, and Hugh explains to Jay that she will now be followed by some supernatural entity that can take the form of any person that only she can see. The entity can only walk, but it knows where Jay is at all times, and if it catches her, it will kill her and then go after the previous person to have "passed it on." Hugh and Jay see a naked woman coming after Jay, but they manage to get away. Hugh drops an emotionally rattled Jay off at her house and flees.
The thing is, It Follows is only a terrific horror movie in small sections. The thought process and reasoning behind the "monster" are easily the best and worst parts, offering plenty of brain food and disappointment at the same time. It's refreshing for once to see teenage/young adult characters not behave like complete idiots, although there are some questionable decisions that they make along the way. While I'm on the subject, I should bring up the decision of Hugh to basically abandon Jay after she discovers what is now following her, becoming overwhelmed by his fear and pretty much disappearing altogether. What is perplexing is how Jay and her friends make little to no mention of finding Hugh until much later in the movie. That's just the tip of the iceberg of weird things that happen in this movie for no apparent reason.
- The "monster" that follows Jay and some select others is like a curse that is inflicted upon someone when they have pre-marital sex. Having sex at a relatively early stage in life is a choice you cannot take back, and one that can have dire consequences for you if you're not careful. It Follows creates a lot of fear out of having someone like Jay be haunted for the rest of her days because of her decision to engage in sexual intercourse at such a young age. The "monster" is her punishment. Just as the decision to have pre-marital sex is one that Jay can never erase, the "monster" that follows Jay will never go away, no matter how hard she tries. It's those kind of chilling realities that help elevate It Follows into something that is bound to stick with you at least some time after the end credits.
- The electronic score by Disasterpeace helps give the film its creepy atmosphere, using distorted and fuzzy sounds that enhance the tension and horrifying sense that trouble is right around the corner. I am one to always vouch for a prominent soundtrack, and no question It Follows delivers in that department.
- It Follows makes you aware of what's going on with its "monster" very early on, which is actually kind of a letdown. There would have been a serious mystery component to what is following Jay had the movie spent the majority of its running time teasing you about what exactly is following her. It could take the Jaws approach and not actually show you the beast until the time is right, showing you things from the "monster"'s point of view as it follows Jay wherever she goes. But since the movie gives you the most important details right off the bat, a lot of suspense is left behind. That's not to say the movie isn't completely scare-free the rest of the way. It just has a more difficult time generating fear because of how you know basically everything there is to know.
- There are many random moments that happen throughout the film that lead to absolutely nothing. Jay flees in a car one night, and then we see her parked in the middle of the woods, sleeping on the hood. I don't know about you, but if I were stranded with my car in the middle of the woods one night, I'd feel more solace sleeping inside with the windows rolled up and the doors locked as opposed to sleeping outside on top of the hood where a coyote or supernatural entity could attack me no problem. Anyway, this leads to Jay walking onto a beach, where she notices three men standing on a boat together. We see her undress and walk into the water. The next shot is then her driving back home. What happened with Jay and the three men is never brought up. There's also a scene where Jay is standing in front of a mirror in her underwear, when she gets interrupted by a ball hitting the bathroom window. She looks outside and sees nothing. After she leaves the bathroom, we see a young, black boy peering into the window. We could assume the boy is the "monster", but the movie never makes it clear. There are also no parents to speak of during the entire film, and an explanation of their absence is never properly given.
Quentin Tarantino shared his thoughts on the movie, particularly how he would make it better. He mentioned how there's no rhyme or reason in how the entity plans its attacks, and that the entity isn't casual enough in the environment. David Robert Mitchell responded in a sort of playful manner, asking Tarantino if he wanted to go out for a beer and talk over some notes. One other thing that Tarantino said that I'll mention here is how he thought It Follows has the best premise for a horror movie he's seen in a long, long time. Part of me wants to agree with him, because It Follows does have a premise that if executed in the right way, could result in one of the best horror films in the past decade. Some other reviews I've read have claimed It Follows to be the scariest movie released in the past decade.
I am more in the minority when it comes to thoughts on It Follows. There's a lot of it that does work, especially its take on the consequences of making irreversible decisions like having pre-marital sex. But too much of it is revealed way too quickly, and as a result, the movie isn't quite as suspenseful and mysterious as it could've been. The soundtrack is a great fit, some of the performances are strong (not all of them), and it's light on the jump scares (I counted only one legitimate jump scare). Damn it, though. I just hate it when something that you know could be absolutely terrific comes up short.
Recommend? Yes. Horror fans should definitely give it a watch.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: