Friday, March 20, 2015

IT FOLLOWS Review - Javi's Take

Director: David Robert Mitchell.
Writer: David Robert Mitchell.
Actors: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi and Jake Weary.
Synopsis: After a young woman is cursed and being followed by a creature, she must figure out how to get rid of it. 

Let me be real here for a second: One of my worst recurring nightmares started happening after playing the game Final Fantasy VII, and it involved a huge meteor coming towards the Earth at an agonizingly slow pace. I remember that the sky was red, and I always woke up before the meteor hit, sparing me a certain large-scale death.
There's a lot to read into with that dream. But, at its core, it's a manifestation of my fear that death (and planetary destruction) is inevitable.
It's a fear that we as a species face. We do everything that we can to stop death, but we always fail. Director David Robert Mitchell knows this well. As such, IT FOLLOWS preys on our natural fear of death as a basis for one of the first must-see horror movies of the year.
The premise revolves around a thing -- it's not given a name -- that follows someone who has been infected or cursed. The thing takes on the shape of a random person that only the infected can see, and it always comes at you. You can run away from it so long as there's more than one exit in a room, but that's the easy part. Because this thing won't stop. The only way to not until you get rid of the thing is to pass it onto someone else via sexual intercourse. And even that's not a fool proof method. If the next person dies, then the thing comes after the original person all over again.
Specifically, IT FOLLOWS  takes us through the terrible situation Jay ( THE GUEST'S Maika Monroe) finds herself in after hooking up with Hugh (Weary). She then enlists the help of her friends, who appear to believe her, despite the extraordinary situation she's in. There's a lot of deliberation here about how to pass the curse on -- an amount of time that just speaks volumes about her character and makes her more likable, really.
It's here where this movie scores major points. This is a horror film that's light on the jump scares and gore but full of tension and dread. The opening minutes of the movie show what happens when a young woman falls victim to the thing, and then the film quickly and efficiently establishes the threat without explaining the "rules" in some exposition dump.
Much of the movie centers on dread and fear more than bloodshed. This foreboding atmosphere is enhanced by little touches such as the superb score from Disasterpiece aka Richard Vreeland, which is full of lulling synth-washes juxtaposed with some eerie bass lines and a pulsing beat. (Stream it for free on Disasterpiece's Bandcamp). Then there's the setting, a Detroit that feels very isolated and thinly populated, and is filled with fantastical, anachronistic details such as a clam shell-looking e-reader/cell phone that clearly doesn't exist in our world.
Seeing as this movie has been making the festival rounds for a while now, it's been hard to avoid the hype surrounding it. The most prevalent interpretation this circuit has spawned for the movie is that it's a pro-abstinence film, and that the thing is a stand-in for STDs or pregnancy. While that is certainly something you could say about the movie, that interpretation doesn't feel right. The characters in IT FOLLOWS are sympathetic, and, in general, good kids just hanging out and having fun. They just happen to have sex, too. That's a stark contrast to films like the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, where the teens who die during sex usually tend to be very unpleasant characters to begin with.
No, IT FOLLOWS is far more centered around themes of mortality and again. Each of its protagonists are in their late teens or early twenties -- that the sweet spot where growing up is still rad as hell, in party because you don't yet have to pay your own bills. Look at Jay's actions as the movie progresses: She starts acting a little more carefree; she'll stay out a little later than usual; or maybe she'll go on a spontaneous road trip. Doesn't sound that just like being a teenager? Still, while I disagree with the pro-abstinence view, the great thing about this movie is that it's vague enough to where you can have your own interpretation.
But that's not to say it's not effective. It is. Very much so. IT FOLLOWS fits well into the wave of the so-called "horror resurgence" we're currently experiencing, right alongside such movies as THE BABADOOK, YOU'RE NEXT and THE GUEST, each of which has earned acclaim for taking horror genre tropes and tweaking them to create something more atmospheric and more contemplative, but still downright terrifying.
IT FOLLOWS may skimp out some on the gratuitous violence. But the film's so effective elsewhere that this doesn't matter.
This is the film against will all other 2015 horror movies are going to be judged. And it set a high standard.

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