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It Follows (2015); And My Disappointment with the Film and the Hype

April 6, 2015

Warning: TIt-Follows-posterhis review contains minor spoilers.

It Follows’ yearns for the days of classic 70’s horror cinema— the good old days. Back then the predators were cold-blooded, the reason for their crimes were largely disregarded, breasts were abundant, and the soundtracks were as killer as our lead villain. Writer and director David Robert Mitchell recaptures much of that nostalgia to a sentimental horror addict’s delight; a shape-shifting killer with an ominous background shadowed by a high-octane soundtrack to perfectly set the mood. But, in the film’s attempt to whisper sweet nothings into your ear to get you hot and bothered, It Follows drops the ball forgetting the most important element of any good horror film, cohesive believability.

The scenario is simple: 19-year-old Jay’s (Maika Monroe) life gets turned inside out when a one night stand with a new boyfriend, Hugh, ends with her chloroformed and tied to a wheelchair in her underwear. In the middle of a vacant plot of land, Hugh reveals to her what he just did which is pass along a disease with tragic consequences during their sexual encounter. From now on Jay will be followed by something. What? We don’t know, and they don’t either. This thing will take the form of various people all walking slowly intending to kill Jay unless she sleeps with another person creating a new target for it to follow.

Though the scenario is new and intriguing, it’s the logistics of It Follows that muddies up the film depleting its promising story through irritating conveniences and last-minute rule changes. This in turn creates a fragmented story marred by mediocre scares and confusing loop holes. It Follows unfolds in dream-like fashion seemingly as though it’s conception revolved around a few scenes of terrifying moments and not a seamless organized story. What made my entire viewing experience lackluster was that more care seemed to have been given to crafting gorgeously saturated shots in moody low lights than to the world within the visuals. The trade-off has its moments of success, but ultimately left me questioning too many aspects of the film by the time the credits rolled and not feeling any sort of paranoia or jittery fear.

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What was up with compact mirror/iPhone that only one character inexplicably uses time and again? How are others able to manipulate and affect this being despite not being able to see it or it see them? Why don’t the victims just take off on an extended vacation to get rid of the killer? It is limited to walking, so water should be a safe bet as a boundary. If the being is a supernatural force that can’t be destroyed, then why does it fear death? Obviously a fight with this being is futile, if not impossible as suggested in the first scene then witnessed in another, so why is Jay and her friends able to fend it off? Where are the parents during all of this? How are they able to miss so many days of school?

Likewise, we see random people spying on Jay throughout the film. At one point after a jolt comes from a basketball hitting her bathroom window it is revealed that a neighborhood boy is watching her. While some may question why fixate on such minute aspects of the film, I argue why not? Mitchell shows us these aspects not once or twice, but multiple times. Why give these minuscule moments weight by showing them if they mean nothing to the plot? These random, underdeveloped aspects of It Follows feels clumsy and ultimately sucks the terror created by the atmosphere out of the film making the last shot of It Follows not only predictable, but obvious.

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Easily the most distinct and intriguing aspect of the film is the remarkable soundtrack. Composed by Disaterpeace, the score possesses the ability to captivate you within the first few minutes of the film and hold that allure until the end. Mitchell’s impressive camerawork similarly entraps viewers as it darts back and forth between creepy stationary moments filled with blinding soft lighting to flowing motion that captures odd figures in the background through slightly off-kilter framing. These aspects together create an atmosphere that alone is worth experiencing. Unfortunately, this ambiance isn’t enough to carry the fright and terror needed to make It Follows a truly impressive gem nor match the likes of the horror films that Mitchell is obviously influenced by.

It Follows rides on the backs of John Carpenter, George A. Romero, and Ti West among many others. While the film definitely shows its teeth and what Mitchell is capable of, it also demonstrates that Mitchell has quite a way to go before creating something truly compelling in the horror genre, if that’s even his desire. Yet, audiences and critics seem smitten by It Follows and I can’t fathom why. Are we as horror fans so starved for the next great horror movie that we will herald anything that remotely favors the classics despite being incoherent and vaguely intense? Or, am I just a hard to please horror purist easily underwhelmed by advantageous attempts? I’m still trying to figure out.

TOSS UP. I recommend this with reservations. As a horror fan, I was highly disappointed and underwhelmed, but it’s a beautifully shot film that deserves at least  one watch.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2015 9:36 PM

    Terrifying and smart, but never seeming like it’s trying too hard. Nice review.

  2. April 7, 2015 11:11 AM

    It was a bit light on the horror at times, but the atmosphere and soundtrack were definitely memorable. There are scenes where there’s absolutely nothing happening in the shot and it is still extremely uneasy. It really reminded me of the Ring with better music.

    I like the idea of “it” but understand your confusion of the hype over the finished product.

  3. Alethia permalink
    April 13, 2015 5:20 PM

    Just watched Sinister after reading an equal number of negative and positive reviews. I thought of you and what you might think of it. Off to rewatch the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and think of the days when movies made me sleep with the lights on for months.

    • April 13, 2015 7:53 PM

      I wanted to like that movie but just couldn’t get behind it. It had a great atmosphere but they focused more on the family drama than the scares. I need to research the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre! I remember being terrified when I first watched that and I was like 16 watching that in day light lol

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