By: Heather Seebach
**Warning: The following contains spoilers**
I slacked on writing a review when I saw this film a few weeks ago but after second viewing - and many discussions about this film - I've decided to give a rundown of what I like so much about David Robert Mitchell's It Follows (in lazy list format). Here goes, in no particular order:
10. The Characters
They feel REAL. Teenagers of just about any generation can relate to the characters in this movie. There is no need for generic horror archetypes here - the slut, the virgin, etc. - just average kids who sneak beer and play cards on the porch when mom's asleep. Speaking of, I love the way we never really see Jay and Kelly's mother. She is glimpsed only as the back of a head, a pair of feet, a voice, etc. There is no doubt subtext regarding her absence in their lives and how that ties into adolescent confusion but from a filmmaking standpoint, it reminds us that this movie is all about the teenagers (which I love).
9. The Cinematography
It Follows thrives on building anxiety and dread. One of the ways it achieves that is through clever use of the camera. Whether its creeping along a suburban Michigan street or attached to a wheelchair, the camera builds suspense effectively. Perhaps the film's signature shot is the circular pan, used in the opening scene as well as that memorable Lawson High School scene. Not only is it a cool effect, catching only a brief spinning glimpse of what's behind you, but it generally gives the claustrophobic feeling of something following.
8. The Slow Burn
The primary complaint I hear from people who dislike this film is "boring." I suppose everyone has a different tolerance level but personally I never felt it was boring. If you only find terror in the jump scares, or the moments when the score ramps up and something thrilling happens, well, I can't help you. For me, some of the scariest moments occurred when very little was even happening. That is the very essence of suspense, the ability to hold dread and tension over your audience continuously. The fact that my eyes were constantly searching the background for "it" speaks volumes.
7. The Timelessness
The production designers deliberately made the film seem "out of time." While the music screams 80s, much of the set design implies 70s. Then there are the old black-and-white monster movies the teenagers are always watching, juxtapositioned with Yara's very modern (albeit nonexistent) Kindle-like clamshell device. It's a bit of an odd mash-up but it effectively keeps you guessing when this story is meant to take place. While timelessness is good for any film, this one really goes out of its way to keep the viewer guessing, which leads me to #6....
6. The Ambiguity
Want a movie that explains everything for you? This is not it. The final act in particular leaves a lot open to interpretation. Did Jay have sex with those guys on the boat? Was "Hugh" wrong about the rules? What's with all the blood in the pool? Did Jay and Paul resign to live together with "it" always, or did they really believe they had killed it? The way their sex scene immediately follows the pool scene led me to believe they believed "it" to still be alive (not sure why though), whereas the person I saw the film with interpreted it exactly the opposite. He believed they finally made love because they believed "it" was gone, but that doesn't explain the chair up against the door. Or was that simply for privacy? Who knows!! Let's not forget that quick shot of Paul checking out street hookers afterwards - he was clearly considering "passing it on." I believe in that final shot of them holding hands, they are completely aware "it" is still after them, but they are stronger together. Yara's line from The Idiot about death being certain also seems to suggest that. They realize they cannot escape it and instead choose to face it together, come what may.
5. The Fearlessness
It Follows is relatively devoid of gore (save for that striking beach shot) but it has other ways of making the viewer uneasy. It's not often that a modern horror movie has a shit-ton of nudity and almost no blood. The naked human body is used frequently to create discomfort, while also representing the anxiety of sexual awakening in adolescence. The creature no doubt chooses those forms to disturb its victim, especially when assuming the visage of a family member. The scene when Greg's "mother" rapes and kills him is by far the film's most disturbing moment. It is comprised of roughly three shots - her leg sliding up and down his; her hips grinding against him; and their hands entwined - and those are three shots I wish I could scrub out of my brain! That scene is ten kinds of wrong and genuinely shocked me. I'm a gorehound but gore is rarely as ballsy as that!
4. The Originality
Let's face it: we are all sick of remakes, reboots, half-assed sequel/prequels, endless found footage movies, and so on. That is not to say some of it isn't fun but very little in modern horror feels original anymore. I am not going to be a quote whore or beat you over the head with hype saying It Follows is the reinvention of horror or some such hyperbole but here is what the film actually is - unique! Like great genre film should, it approaches the non-horror themes - sex and adolescence - primarily and sincerely. In the process, Mitchell is able to present a simple but effective menace that may be reminiscent of Halloween's "The Shape" in its tenacity but has a method of transmission more akin to a curse or virus - and one that ties beautifully into the non-horror themes.
3. The Unsupernatural
The supernatural elements were not all that made me feel uneasy. For me, the scariest moment of the film did not even involve the monster. It was when Jay and "Hugh" just had sex and she is recounting youthful innocence when, at her most open and vulnerable (emotionally and physically), she is attacked with chloroform. The confusion, betrayal, and fear in her eyes, in that moment - ugh. Obviously, his intentions were not particularly nefarious but it was disturbing all the same, maybe particularly for me as a woman. Other little details, like the young boys who keep spying on Jay in her swimwear/underwear, are enough to make a girl feel uneasy. Of course that is precisely the idea - to instill the feeling of being stalked even without the "it."
2. The Score
Even if you did not enjoy the film, how about that score, right?! Who doesn't love some good 80s synth? The sweet Carpenter-esque tunes come courtesy of Disasterpeace. The music is largely responsible for how tightly my hands were gripping the armrest without me even realizing it. At times, it creeps along eerily like in "Inquiry" then gradually ramps up, taking your heartbeat along for the ride! My personal favorite is the very slasher-esque "Heels" that opens the film. There are beautiful moody, chiptune-y pieces like "Jay" as well. Do yourself a favor - listen and buy RIGHT HERE!
1. The "It"
Not since Resolution have I seen a modern horror creature that felt this new. As discussed above, it's very original and naturally creepy. Since it could take on ANY form, I never knew what to expect next! That is a rare treat in a horror film, to know just as little as the protagonist about what you will see when she turns that corner or opens that door. The choices of form were fantastic as well - from the very creepy "giant" to Jay's (presumably) dead father launching electronics at her head. There are attempts to explain or give rules to the "it" but, as Mitchell himself admits, they are flawed because they are limited to what the character knows. The origin and workings of the monster are never truly explained nor should they be! The best monsters are unstoppable and unexplainable, and this one seems to have both qualities in spades!