It Follows – 2 out of 5
I’ve heard nothing but good things about It Follows. Friends told me it was the bomb-digity (some of my friends are time-travelers from the early 90s) and the critics have been going ape-shit for the film. It’s rare that a horror film can illicit such a reaction from people that aren’t horror film nerds and that made me buy into the hype surrounding this film. And since it came out very close to my horror nerd girlfriend’s birthday, it just made sense to go and see it. Sadly, I might have been TOO sold on the hype because I was grossly let down by this film.
Yeah, I'll probably have to be secured to a chair of some kind if someone
ever wants me to watch this again.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is a non-descript college student with no real defining characteristics who decides to one day give it up (in a sexual way) to her male suitor Hugh (Jake Weary). However, Jay is horrified to learn that Hugh passed something on to her...something terrifying. He doesn’t know what it is but all he knows is that It wants her dead. It, as it is come to be called, will follow her wherever she goes. It never runs but will never cease its walking towards her. If It catches you, It kills you and then resumes its hunt on the previous person who had it. The only way to rid yourself of It is to pass it to another (of course sexually) and now Jay must figure out a way to survive this ordeal. With the help of others; her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), her friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi), a friend that is secretly in love with her named Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and a man from the neighborhood who finds himself tangled up in this mess named Greg (Daniel Zoratto), Jay sets out to try and stop it before It claims her as its next victim.
Like I stated in the opening paragraph, I really think I went into the theater expecting too much from It Follows. I honestly felt it started great and it grabbed my attention but after about twenty minutes or so, the film felt like it was just dragging on and on with no real true direction in sight and I found myself incredibly bored with the whole final product. Make no mistake, there were a lot of elements I enjoyed about the film but I ended up enjoying them only as separate elements and the combination that formed the final product, the It Follows Voltron if you will, wasn’t enough to make me really interested or even invested in the film.
In fairness, however, old ladies creeping around a college campus in their
sleeping gowns is pretty fucking scary.
One of the things I felt was great was the intense music the film had. Most of the time this soundtrack helped craft tension during sequences that would, normally, be quite tame and carry absolutely no weight. Honestly, how do you make something that is casually walking straight at you terrifying? Sure, occasionally this is done by having It be a creepy old woman or a fully nude person or a semi-nude person pissing themselves but, overall, It isn’t that creepy when it looks like it is casually, but with mild purpose, strolling towards a location. So, the intense music that was incredibly striking but, at the same time, a mild throwback to the old synthesizer scores of classic 70s slasher flicks, helped craft some hair-raising moments—however, this great music comes off as a double-edged sword as the unique music has times where it comes off cartoonish and silly and instantly killed any tension I could have been feeling. I’ll be honest, there were several times in the theater I couldn’t help myself from laughing out loud at the music choices. It felt like the soundtrack gained sentience and was throwing blindly at a dartboard on what type of mood tunes it was going for.
For example, this scene was accompanied by a clarinet version of Ginuwine's
"Pony." It was a weird choice.
Additionally, I really liked the concept of it. Granted, the film’s metaphor for being an STD is plain as day and lacks subtlety but the whole idea that sex is evil and will get you killed is a motif that was popular in the horror films from the 70s and 80s when, during the AIDS epidemic and we started to learn that we can just put our genitals on everything all willy nilly and with absolutely no regard for the consequences, this made absolute sense and making sex a frightening thing was so prevalent that it has since become a parody of itself. However, in It Follows, having this consequence for sex and the blatant metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases was a concept that I found interesting and it made the beginning of the film captivating.
"Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior Satan?"
Aside from these facts, the rest of the film was a loss for me. The acting isn’t terrible but I saw no one that really wow’ed me or I felt was exceptional. The characters aren’t really developed that much and since I knew only the basic facts of them, I found I had a hard time caring for them and their ordeal—especially Jay, the main character. Of all the characters, she should have been the one I was rooting for the entire time but with the amount of time I had to watch her laying around curled up in a ball (and there’s a lot of that) I found myself just hoping It would catch her so I could leave the theater and go home and put on Game of Thrones or something else that would actual make me feel the fear of losing a character I was invest in.
Ultimately, however, the real killer for this film, for me, was the dragging nature of the story during the final two halves. Some of my friends have argued with me that the film is suppose to be methodical in its pace and that the whole point of it is to be a "slow burn" and I totally get that. I’m all for a slow burn horror film that builds at a steady, albeit slow, pace—as long as it pays off. I found no payoff in It Follows. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to call this a "slow burn." To me, the film was a "slow fizzle." To me, the film was like watching a roaring fire slowly burn to ashes. When it began, the story had me sucked in and I was enthusiastic to see what would happen now that Jay has It and is trying to find out where It came from. However, the film starts to get redundant and I had to endure scene after scene of watching Jay and her friends run from It, wait for It, try and fail to kill It and then repeat it all again but, this time, at a slower pace. Rather than a slow build up to true fear, It Follows felt like it was slowly circling the drain and made me feel an overwhelming amount of sleepiness rather than any sort of creepy feelings.
One of the hardest things to take seriously in this film was the idea that someone--
ANYONE--would spend even a moment in one of those above-ground pools.
Those were the major complaints I had about the film and the biggest reasons I found I couldn’t enjoy It Follows. There are tons of smaller, nearly nit-picky complaints I had with the movie like I found it amusing that Jay’s friends way too easily support her in her fear of It. Sure, they try to convince her that nothing is there (only those who had It could see It) but, overall, they were all a little too accepting of her horror. While not an entertainment killer, I just found it odd that none of her friends laughed in her face when she tried to explain what was happening or flat out call her insane. I know I would have a hard time believing any of my friends if they claimed they got a haunted STD.
Yep, I'd make that face (any one of them) right before I start to nervously chuckle if one of my
friends made such a claim.
Additionally, the film tries to be timeless by refusing to create an identifiable era: fashions are a mixed bag of various decades, TVs still have rabbit ears, Yara is using some weird clam-like smartphone, etc. This reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite and how it is impossible to narrow down that movie to a certain decade and it seemed like an interesting choice that makes the film feel timeless but, ultimately, I wondered if it was at all necessary. It didn’t really help the film and, at times, I found it more distracting.
Going into it, I feared that this film might be a bit polarizing and that it is either a "love it or hate it" type of film and it seems my fears came true. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground (even though I was just claiming that there are parts I like). Without a doubt, this is one of those movies that the people who love it, will love it with all there hearts and instantly hate you and call you names (and usually follow it with "well, you just didn’t get it because you’re dumb") when you don’t instantly agree with their opinion of the film and those who hate it will probably give you a big "thank you" for speaking out against it like those who don’t like it are being censored. I know I’ve already been told twice I’m stupid for not loving it…so, feel free to tell me how I "didn’t get it" and I’m a moron because I didn’t think this was the greatest film ever made.
This is a fair representation of how not enjoying this film will doom me to a life of
commenters following me and telling that "how can anyone take your reviews serious
because you dare not agree with me, the commenter?"
In the end, I feel that It Follows could have made a great short film. Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell made some great music choices, his camera work and scene layouts looked terrific and the overall premise is unique but a familiar horror trope at the same time. However, the dragging nature of the plot, characters that were bland, and way too few scares made this film more forgettable for me than the instant classic people feel it to be.