johnlink ranks IT FOLLOWS (2014)

In some ways, it is harder for an indie film to sweep in out of nowhere in the current Hollywood model than it was in the 90s and early 00s. While social media has certainly aided the possibility that word-of-mouth will allow the cream to rise to the top, the over saturation of the movie marketplace can also make it harder to sift through all of the muck to find the real diamonds. So when a horror movie with absolutely no stars attached makes waves and earns itself a theatrical release, it is important to take notice. If nothing else, it is clear that IT FOLLOWS had earned its reputation the old fashioned way: It was good and it scared people. it-follows-bande-annonce-spot-vf_77sm1_3j06x0 I watched IT FOLLOWS (2014) on 6.20.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Writer-Director David Robert Mitchell is ambitious, and IT FOLLOWS is the result. There are so many instances of writers not making good directors, or directors unable to craft a script worthy of their behind-the-camera skills. But this is one of those instances where it needs to be the same person doing the penning and the filming. The script for IT FOLLOWS is subtle and quiet. The imagery for the film doesn’t betray this tendency, and the ugliness of the exteriors is a counter-point to the beauty of each shot.

The story is born from the rules of horror as we learned through the 1980s. Sex, we have always been taught by these films, is a sin which will soon lead to punishment. IT FOLLOWS is the unabashed id of these films. The story teaches us that some mysterious entity is being passed from person to person through sex. Once it attaches itself to you it will endlessly walk in your direction until it takes hold of you. The only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone else, thereby passing it on to them. But that doesn’t free you from the curse as the entity will revert back to you once that person has been extinguished.

The studio system would have decimated this script. Sex would have been added gratuitously and victims would have to be piled up in increasingly meaningless ways. The restraint and careful nature of IT FOLLOWS is its greatest asset. Despite a particularly brutal opening scene, this is not a movie about death and killing. For all the times this blog has attacked lesser horror movies for being about the killing rather than the characters, IT FOLLOWS is truly a movie about survival. itfollowsim

The actors, young and unknown, are all up to the task. Our heroine is Jay (Maika Monroe). Her quiet desperation is matched equally by her ferocious will to survive. She is someone we truly root for. She is surrounded by a team of other young kids, her sisters and friends (Lili Sepe is great, in particular, as the sister), who would be mere cannon fodder for a lesser horror film. Yet, here, they are allowed to be fleshed out as whole characters trying desperately to save their friend.

The style of the movie is certainly a talking point, but ultimately less interesting than the story. Mitchell creates a world which very much looks like the horror films of the 1970s and 1980s. IT FOLLOWS is shot in and around Detroit, and the ugliness and scarcity of the world suggests poverty more than it suggests retro. He uses the imagery to recall those films of old, HALLOWEEN in particular. He also uses the score, heavy synthesizer in key moments, to make us feel like we are in that classic age of horror. But this is a film which probably owes more to the Norwegian horror film, especially something like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. The tone is very much in line with that sort of ambiance than with the old slasher films. The color palate is similar to those modern movies, with subdued hues keeping everything bleak. the way the score bleeds scene to scene is much more modern as well, rather than looking at each scene as its own segment to be scored separately. And there is no doubt that a climactic moment in a swimming poll absolutely lends itself to LET THE RIGHT ONE IN particularly, though there have been several films to adopt this recently as well. 54ee17f6be872

More subtle than the setting, though, is the imagery. In various places pieces of grass denote the cutting of ones arm, a simple picture of a father and daughter set next to the girl swimming foreshadows the end, moments where a character is making a major decision is left unresolved to allow the viewer to decide what actually happened in the next moments; there are at least three different moments where we are left to guess whether or not someone being chased by the entity decided wether or not to sleep with someone else to pass it on. Because of the nature of the plot – the entity returns after that person is killed – we are left to decide wether or not our heroes decided to victimize someone else in order to buy themselves time. In my opinion, our heroes DID make that decision twice (after an innocent looking lunch and a boat is seen drifting on the horizon), and chose not to do it the last time (when a character drives by a couple of working women on a dirty street corner). But intelligent people can disagree on this.

While IT FOLLOWS may not be the most entertaining horror movie of the 21st century, it is absolutely one of the strongest. It proudly stands as a horror movie not afraid to make its viewer work, perhaps being one of the most thought-provoking horror films since THE SHINING. Not all of these are tough questions, and not all of these are vital questions. But there is enough meat in IT FOLLOWS to make it a must see film.



The bonus is for the cinematography. The last movie I remember seeing which did such a great job of making the ugly and bleak look so vibrant was THE WRESTLER.


FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on June 21, 2015.

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