Saturday, August 22, 2015

Horror Film Review

It Follows (2014):  The best American horror was produced from the late 60's through the early 80's.  You know what I'm talking about.  Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Changeling, Suspiria, Halloween, The Evil Dead, Poltergeist, etc.  I've watched, if not studied hundreds of scary movies over the years and more often than not can explain exactly why they're scary.  The films made during this period of roughly 14 years, however, all contain an intangible I've never been able to satisfactorily sort out.  It's a gritty vibe one associates with vacuum tube TVs, steel V8 behemoths from Detroit, and shag carpeting of either a green or gold flavor.  I mention this because the folks who made It Follows somehow managed to recreate this retro intangible nearly to perfection.  But is it enough to hoist this little film into the pantheon of horror awesomeness?

To clear up a spot of confusion I encountered on IMDB, the story is not set in the past, although the dearth of cell phones, computers, and anything resembling modern fashion or furnishings could lead one to think otherwise.  Said story is a simple one.  Dispossessed teenage suburbanite Jay (Maika Monroe) decides to have sex with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary).  When has teenage bonking ever ended well in horror movies?  In this case, post-coitus activity includes Hugh tying up Jay in an abandoned warehouse and explaining she is now cursed, that an entity only they can see who can assume the appearance of anyone will follow her with the sole purpose of killing her.  Jay, of course, doesn't believe him.  At first.  Then she does, and the chase is on.

Along with her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), childhood friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), Jay first attempts to run away and then hunts down Hugh to get some answers.  Hugh, however, has little to add other than to encourage her to pass the curse on.  He hasn't a clue where or why it started or how to break it.  Jay decides to pass it to Greg.  That doesn't end well for Greg, and so the entity resumes following Jay.  Geeky friend Paul has a crazy-ass plan to kill the entity involving a swimming pool and dozens of small household appliances.  Doesn't work.  Paul, who's been crushing on Jay for, like, ever convinces her to pass the curse to him so they both can see the danger coming.  And that's it.  Last scene is the two of them walking down a sidewalk, hand in hand...while someone follows them.

Needless to say, so I'm going to say it anyway, the ending leaves the viewer hanging just a bit.  The person I watched the film with perhaps summed it up best when she said, "Are you fucking kidding me?"  Dubious denouement aside, my issues with It Follows are what my issues always are:  lapses in logic and no rationale for the existence of the supernatural bad guy.  The latter is self-explanatory.  The former...I'll give you a for instance.  At one point, Jay shot the entity in the head with a pistol.  Like a zombie, it got up and kept coming (I know, zombies shot in the head don't get up.  Just go with it, okay?).  So why did they think electrocution would do what a brain-destroying bullet couldn't?  Also, this thing can't walk through walls.  It has to break in, usually a rock through a window.  So why not lure it somewhere it can't break out of like an unused box car or an old meat locker with one of those big stainless steel doors?  Trap it and then figure out a way to kill it.

That said, the filmmakers get full points for style and atmosphere.  And for some pretty groovy camera work.  The soundtrack brought back memories of Suspiria, Halloween, and The Exorcist.  Ultra creepy music that ratchets up the tension and makes it feel like bugs with icy feet are crawling down your spine.

The Skinny

Acting:  Monroe plays Jay to near perfection.  Her support group also do well, the only weak spot being Zovatto as Greg.
Story:  I look at it as a new take on the classic zombie tale.  The entity is slow, only walks, but inexorable.  And single-minded.  There's something extra terrifying about that.
Direction:  Lots of long and establishing shots make it work.  Always seeing someone in the distance following (or standing buck-naked on a rooftop) is quite effective.
Production Values:  Filmed in Michigan for a song ($2 million), the cinematography is astonishing.  No aspect of this movie (film stock, sets, lighting, etc.) will make you believe it wasn't a big budget, Hollywood endeavor.
Gore/FX:  The opening scene with the girl on the beach is pretty gross.  We get to see what happens when the entity catches up with its prey.  Not much blood otherwise.  What little CGI there is works well enough to not be distracting.
Scares:  Yes, yes there are.  One in particular may cause a bit of poo to come out.
Ending:  If you can call it that.  A sequel is a veritable certainty.
Verdict:  Should you see It Follows?  Yes, yes you should.  The ending is annoying, sure, but there's enough high quality horror here to make it worth your while.  Ya follow?

Rating:  4 out of 5

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