Horrorible Review: “It Follows”

Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!

It Follows movie poster

It Follows

A really good movie should leave the viewer affected for longer than the hour and a half they spend watching the movie, and that goes for horror movies as well. A filmmaker has to get a lot of things right to make a film really good, and the people who made It Follows nailed it.

The rules are simple in It Follows, the ones that we know about, anyway. If you have an STG (sexually transmitted ghost) and sleep with someone, that person “inherits” the ghost. Like a horrible pastiche of the slew of “have sex and die” movies reaching back to the 1970s, you’ll die horribly if it catches you.  Seriously, you do NOT want it to catch you. The thing never moves faster than a slow walk, and at first you think that’s a good thing but the implacable horror builds as as you realize it may move slowly, but it never stops, and can manifest as any person so your head should be on a swivel 24-7-365. That’s no way to live.

It’s a good way to watch a clever horror movie, though. From the opening moment It Follows hints at other great films but has its own very distinctive look and feel, like the Technicolor suburban street the film opens on that reminded me of Fido.  Technicolor, but a little dark. The first victim of the ghost is found in a field that looks just like the one in Blood Simple. She’s excruciatingly dead, but still beautiful. Everything has a dark beauty, from the classic film theater to the ramshackle house on the bad side of town. Good girl Jay, whose very nice boyfriend is about to do her wrong, has a bedroom that looks like a 1930s deco dream.

They go to the awesome theater for a movie but then he freaks out. We see…something…in the background, not sure what. There’s no jump scare or palsied camera work, just…something…maybe. Later, after they have sex in the back seat of his beautiful cherry car that looks a lot like the one I had in high school forty years ago, the date goes downhill fast for Jay.

She wakes up figuratively and literally haunted by the experience. This is the point a lot of people will shake their head and say it’s just another “having sex is bad” horror film, like the ones in the 1970s, but it’s a lot more than that. It Follows shows teens being loyal and true to a friend, and there are deeply thought out allusions to abuse victims throughout. The ghost, “can be a random person or someone you know”, and “anyone is a potential victim, even if indirectly”. People want to help but feel helpless.  There’s a definite lack of official recourse from police or parents. Jay is on her own, despite her friends’  efforts. In a visual allusion, Jay casually lays pieces of grass on her leg while talking to a friend in what resembles a row of cutsIt Follows is about a lot more than the simple message “sex is bad”.

Jay tells her friends about the experience while the gang watches a black and white horror movie on a boxy tv with rabbit ears. Yara slouches on the couch in a recognizably modern pose, reading The Idiot on her flipped open pink clamshell text reader. Pink clamshell text reader, you say? Yeah, no there’s no such thing in our world (though there should be). This is one of many things that don’t fit. There are no cell phones, but Yara has the clam shell reader that looks a lot like a birth control box or a powder compact. Jay is in a modern school, with the teacher reading menacing poetry as a kind of parallel to the quietly oppressive soundtrack, but she and her friends play cards for fun. Outside the house.  While talking to each other. No one does that anymore. What season is it, even? We can’t tell. The director goes out of his way to confuse the timeline, upping the viewer’s feeling of anxiety because we literally don’t know when or where we are. We’re lost.

The director truly excels at something I’ve never experienced in a film before. He makes you pay close attention to the background. From the moment in the theater with the boyfriend, the background becomes a central player in the film. There are a lot of slow pushes and slow cranes around corners. Sometimes a shot is framed so only a portion of the speaker’s face is visible and we’re forced to search the background. Another time a slow camera roundy-round gives us a thorough 360 before Jay goes into a building. If Jay is standing near a window the viewer will find herself searching for movement outside, or if Jay is slowly swaying on a playground swing we’re treated mostly to a penetrating observation of her background. The viewer begins to share Jay’s increasingly vulnerable feeling, because you can just never tell when you actually will see something dangerous approaching before the movie’s characters see them.

If this sounds slow, it IS. OMG this is the slowest movie E-ver. Even knowing why the director used a sometimes painfully slow pace – to make us pay attention to the background and to give the action scenes a lot more punch – didn’t help my enjoyment.  Despite it being very slow for very good reasons, I had a serious problem with it.

It Follows is one of the smartest movies I’ve seen in a long time, with a lot of meticulous effort on display for the sake of the viewer and to better showcase the filmmakers’ deep messages. The actors are young but gifted, the sets are all gorgeous and you’ll find yourself wanting to see it again just to pick out the anomalies. Definitely treat yourself to this movie, but be aware it sometimes feels like forever.

Images:

It Follows - image of woman looking into pink shell mirrorIt Follows - image of pink shell mirrorIt Follows - green markings on leg.

LINKS:

It Follows Official Trailer 1 (2015) – Horror Movie HD

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