Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Horror is always a hit or miss genre. Not everyone is scared or claims to be scared by the same things. What should scare people is how bland mainstream horror is at the movie theater. Unless you are a franchise with prestige (Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw etc.) or a reboot of a classic prestige horror film or franchise film, it must be damn near impossible to get independent horror into a mainstream theater. It doesn't help that most independent horror these days are just cash grabs on topical pop culture or Z-grade unwatchable trash. Every now and then it's refreshing to see something new and different sneak through the cracks.
I heard of It Follows when it made the festival rounds last year and sadly I missed it when it played The Chicago International film festival but I knew I'd check it out once it hit the arthouse theaters or VOD. So, imagine my surprise when I got to see It Follows at a local AMC theater and it got a wide release thanks to great limited numbers and the balls by Radius-TWC. So how is it? Like I said, horror fans can never be satisfied. Read a Facebook or YouTube comment section for proof. People always want something new, different, disturbing, scary, but when they get something new they claim it was boring, made no sense, wasn't scary etc. I don't think It Follows lived up to my hype either but I will admit that I was generally creeped out and happy to watch something blindly and be taken on a ride and not know where it was going. It isn't your average horror movie either: there's no big exposition to explain everything, minimal bodycount, less gore, and a pretty open-ending that is open for the sake of being open-ended, not because they are banking on making It Follows VI.
The story follows (no pun intended) Jay, played wonderfully by an emerging scream queen Maika Monroe who was also fantastic in last year's 80s throwback "The Guest." Whereas the Guest was more of an exploitation of the pulpiness of 80s horror/action films with ultraviolence and synth-pop soundtrack, It follows managing to almost feel like a relic from the 70s or 80s. One fascinating thing It Follows does is gives the film an almost jarringly timeless appeal. The film feels like it is literally set in a different time period. Characters wear vintage clothes, old cars are driven, characters going to an old multiplex to see Charade complete with organ player, all TV is watched in black and white on tube tvs and not a cell phone in site. However, they for some reason give a character a small clamshell that is actually an e-reader to use throughout the film which boggled me more than anything.
What I enjoyed most about seeing this movie without seeing a trailer but just reading a description and seeing some stills is that before I saw the film I didn't know what would provide the scares or what was "following" our characters, which made some creepy moments even more unsettling because they were unexpected.
If you are interested in the premise, it is simply this: Jay, a young woman sleeps with a boy who passes a curse on to her that will "follow" her until she is dead or she passes it on to someone else, and if that person dies it will come back for her. So think of the movie "The Ring" but with sex instead of a VHS tape. If it's one complaint I've seen from viewers of the movie it's that the rules are explained more for the curse and there is no real way to stop it, a ballsy choice for director David Robert Mitchell who knows audience usually want a spoon fed way of defeating evil in Horror films.
The movie definitely has it's share of creepy moments and I liked that the premise didn't divulge everything about what was going on and besides Maika Monroe, her supporting cast actually felt like realistic teenagers, but the main problem with the "less is more" storytelling is that eventually the film writes itself into a corner for the third act which makes all the buildup to the climax sort of a let down, and included the weakest scares of the film when a group of people would interact with "It" and the poor CG started to show and creepiness factor diminished.
The film could be interpreted many ways and most obvious is that it's an allegory for underage sex and STD's but also can be looked at as a reputation, regret, or bad choice following you forever without being able to shake it. Besides the starring performance from Monroe, great cinematography, and creepy premise, the other obvious highlight of this film is the score by Disasterpiece which is a straight-up 70's/80's John Carpenter slasher score that goes a bit overboard at some points but will probably be looked at as one of the best soundtracks of the year and continues the resurgence of synth scores that was also present in Monroe's The Guest.
It Follows didn't live up to the hype for me but it is one of the better, original genre efforts in the past few years. What I really hope that follows this film is mainstream theaters taking more chances on independent genre films.
RATING: 7 OUT OF 10