4 April, L A.S.
This movie met and exceeded my expectations. Let me tell you about it.
Below is my review of…
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing It Follows, the indie horror film that’s won critics’ hearts since its debut at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The reviews and trailers got me super hyped, but how does the movie itself hold up? It was incredible, I loved every moment of it. I’ll avoid spoilers, but first, let me explain the premise for those who don’t know. It Follows is the story of a young college-age woman named Jay, who, after a strange sexual encounter, realizes she is now haunted by a relentless monster that can look like any person, dead or alive, known or unknown. The monster is invisible to everyone but Jay and other people who are “infected” with this sexually transmitted curse. The monster is slow: all it does is walk, and walk, and walk. It displays no passion, no apparent reason for its action. It just walks towards its latest victim, day or night, until it reaches them, and then it gets them. You can easily drive, jog, or even speed-walk away from it to buy you time, but it will never stop. The only way to avoid a grisly fate is to pass the curse on to someone else, who will then become the monster’s new target…until that person and all of their subsequent sexual partners are dead. Then it comes back for you. Fantastic concept. Now let’s talk about the specifics of why the film itself is great!
First great thing: the cinematography
Director David Robert Mitchell knows how to shoot a movie. The opening scene, which shows a frantic young victim fleeing from an invisible predator, uses long, slow, sweeping shots that heighten the audience’s sense of unease and dread. Mitchell repeatedly uses 360 camera panning that gives us wide shots of distant little people and the horizon. It really puts you in the same mood of Jay, where the slightest close movement puts you on edge, and you have to keep attentive for when one of those little random people hundreds of yards away begins making a slow, deliberate, unblinking beeline for “you” and Jay. Besides the creepiness that the cinematography invokes, this movie is also surprisingly beautiful for a Horror film, with many shots giving a sweet, sentimental vibe that contrasts with the monstrous events that inevitably interrupt.
Second: the soundtrack
It’s difficult to decide whether cinematography or soundtrack should go first, they’re pretty much tied. The music, (produced by Disasterpeace,) which gives big nods to soundtracks from classic 1970’s and 1980’s Horror films such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elmstreet, and Friday the 13th, is incredibly unnerving, weird, and surreal. Have a listen to a couple of these songs:
Third: the main characters
The protagonist, Jay, (played by Maika Monroe, who I hope to see in more movies,) has a group of friends supporting her. They’re all well-written, sympathetic, realistic late-teenage characters. I truly enjoyed their conversations, even when they weren’t about anything scary. Each of Jay’s friends is different in important ways, I really don’t want to spoil too much, including anyone else’s interpretations. But yes, they’re genuinely likable and fairly reasonably young adults, a rare sight in a Horror movie. It adds to how refreshing this movie is. And, yes, there’s always sexual tension there within the group, adding to Jay’s moral dilemma about maybe passing the curse on to buy herself more time. Related to not so much characters per se but to actors, the different forms the monster takes are well-cast and costumed. I won’t spoil anything, but, the relatively rare times you see the monster, it scares the hell outta you, as it should.
Fourth: the theme.
You could interpret this film to be about the dangers of wild promiscuity, or about diseases such as AIDS. That would be an absolutely shallow interpretation. Jay is not a raging whore: far, far from it, she has a mature and reasonable sexual life, and was simply taken off-guard early in the film. This is not a Christian morality play about the dangers of sex out of wedlock, though sex does matter a great deal thematically. The movie, as I see it, is about the sense of dread you can feel lying awake at night, knowing that you will eventually die. There is also the dread and anxiety over the stresses of growing up, and things changing beyond your control. You can distract yourself through pleasures like TV, card games, and of course, sex, but in the end, your friends will move away, some will die, and in the end you’ll die too. Time just keeps walking, walking, walking. Your dread will always catch up with you. The film presents that theme with subtlety and class: the characters often talk about their childhood memories and dreams, and a character makes a passing remark of wishing he was four years old again to have his whole life ahead of him. To me, the resolution and final scene drive the theme home even more.
A few other thoughts on what I liked.
- The comic relief is sparse, but when it happens, it’s good, and contributes to me liking Jay and her friends and really wanting to see them figure their mess out.
- The film doesn’t rely on gore. I’m not gonna say there isn’t any, (and there are certainly…gross things, to say the least,) but it’s not much, and it’s not the director’s primary way to try and scare you.
- The clothing, appliances, cars, and home decor look like they could exist in a span of decades from the 1950’s to the 2010’s. The TV’s we see are always super old ones with small screens (always playing cheesy old sci-fi movies) and big knobs, though one character habitually reads an e-book during her downtime. The characters are realistic American young adults with traits shared across a couple generations; they don’t use dated slang. Point is, the movie is not dated at all, and I like that, it makes the theme more universal.
Anyway, if you’re tired of the same old, same old Horror and want something refreshing, chilling, fun, terrifying, retro, disturbing, and somehow sweet and nostalgic, all the same time, see It Follows.