Movie Review: "It Follows" (2015)


Being a lover of the horror genre has its ups and downs. The community embraces and shuns films in equal measure and we are constantly on the look out for the next big film that bowls everyone over. To make a totally inappropriate comparison (#triggered, bitches!), being a horror fiend is like being a drug addict. When you get into it at first, you really get into it. You feel that high  and ride the wave for as long as you can. Then y'know, the high starts feeling samey and normal and you find yourself doing it more out of necessity than actual enjoyment. Then you crash and realize this shit feels the same and you question if you even want to do it anymore, but you just can't give it up. It has it's hooks in you.

It Follows is that hit of goooood shit an addict pines for. The last horror film to garner heaps of praise (The Babadook) left me feeling highly disappointed and when the same amount of insane buzz came riding back of It Follows I felt weary and suspicious. Low and behold, It Follows is the dose of pure horror I've been itching for since like, forever. It's also the first horror film in ages to genuinely get under my skin and creep me the fuck out.

The plot revolves around what can only be described as a sexually transmitted....demon that manifests itself as any random person on the street or someone you know. Once this satanic case of the Clap is passed to you, it follows you. It doesn't run, it doesn't talk. It doesn't even seem all that concerned really. No, it has one purpose and it will stroll towards you until it can get you. The only way to get rid of it is to sleep with somebody else...but even that isn't foolproof.

David Robert Mitchell obviously loves him some John Carpenter. The camera work here is very reminiscent of The Master and there is even a scene lifted straight from Halloween yet this never feels like plagiarism or lazy homage. The score is remarkable and has also drawn Carpenter comparisons...but it's more Tangerine Dream in my opinion.
It Follows is it's own film and plays by it's own rules. There is no sly winking at the camera or tongue-in-cheek references. Nope, this is straight up horror and it is refreshing as it is familiar.

The atmosphere of the film is what immediately drew me in. It's a hazy, quiet, dreamlike film that has a touch of the fairy tale to it-albeit a warped and perverse fairly tale. The characters appear to occupy a bizarre other-world that is similar to our own, but just a bit off center. The films meticulous grasp on atmosphere is impressive as hell. The sky is always a little dreary and overcast, the wind is always blowing, and the streets are always quiet. This kind of attention to detail is a lot of what modern horror films lack-the ability to infuse unease even though there is no danger present.

The cast of characters are, thankfully, all rather likable and realistic. Too often a horror film with a cast of teenagers or twenty-somethings feels obligated to make them all speak retro-cool dialogue and have them come off as witty and hip as possible. Not so here. These are just kids. Normal, everyday kids and each actor is wonderfully understated. Maika Monroe ( soon to be Mrs. Maika Lord Gremlin) is fantastic here. Fresh off her bitchin' turn in the equally awesome The Guest" Monroe delivers a powerful performance here as Jay, the one afflicted with the titular "It". Monroe runs through the gamut of emotions here. Fear, anger, sadness, vulnerability, and strength. Monroe is a natural and a rising star. Keep an eye out for her.

Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi are the other two standouts. Gilchrist as Paul is relatable with his lovelorn emotions and his heroics in the film are affable and heartfelt. Luccardi as Yara doesn't say much, but her characterization in the film is subtly humorous and almost every time a shot or scene focused on her I giggled. I especially loved how these friends all just kind of went along with Jay and whatever crazy shit happened. They don't judge her and make her feel insane or ditch her once she starts acting loopy. No, they stick by her, even when the danger reaches out to them personally. It's little touches like that that gives It Follows real edge and heart.

Did I mention the film creeped me out? Oh lord, did it ever. It didn't just give me a mild case of the goosebumps. No, it fiddled with my brain and managed to twist out some visceral gut reactions that could have only came from the most primal of my fear centers. I felt paranoid after watching this film, like nothing was what it seemed. And that is what makes the conceit of this film so potent. It's not just the obvious metaphors about the potential dangers of sex. It's about the mistakes we make in general. The mistakes that haunt you your whole life and hang over you like a dark cloud. It's about the harm we may cause the people we care about, either directly or indirectly. The "It" is your lose of innocence, your mistakes taken shape and chasing you down until it consumes you.
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