Over the years horror movies have come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. They have featured terrors from an almost endless spring of sources. But I don’t think I have ever seen one where the killer was an STD (sexually transmitted demon) or whatever the heck the entity is terrorizing yet another batch of teens in “It Follows”.
To be honest I still haven’t fully grasped how “It Follows” became such a critical darling. Reviewers have universally fell for it with some even hailing it as ‘the best horror movie in years‘. To its credit it is built around a unique premise (regardless of how silly it sounds on the surface). Also there are some truly arresting visuals including some particularly striking uses of perspective. But it’s the story between the images that unfortunately doesn’t hold up.
The film opens with a cleverly shot intro set in suburban Detroit. A teen girl runs out of the front door of her house and into the neighborhood street. She’s clearly terrified and running from something we can’t see. She makes a circle, runs back inside to grab her car keys, then back out before driving off. For the most part the camera sits still, panning around following her motions in one long take. It gives us our first glimpse of director David Robert Mitchell’s keen sense for tone-setting.
The movie then shifts to Jay (Maika Monroe), an unassuming 19-year-old with a new boyfriend named Hugh (Jake Weary). While on a date the two have a sexual encounter which ends with Hugh chloroforming her. He ties her up and then shares some pretty twisted news – he has passed to her an entity that can only be transmitted through intercourse. He had it, now she does. The shape-shifting entity will stalk her in the form of anyone and only she can see it. He continues to tack on several other weird ‘rules’ we probably didn’t need.
Hugh dumps Jay off at her house and zips out of her life. Thankfully she has her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and two close friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi) who instantly believe her even after she starts noticing strange figures they can’t see. A neighbor friend Greg (Daniel Vovatto) also lends a hand. Parents are notable absent in Mitchell’s story which is surely intended to mean something, but to be honest I haven’t had the urge to give it much thought.
The story (written by Mitchell) moves at a very casual pace. It does allow us to get into the heads of the characters as we wait for the next tense, creepy encounter. But not all of the time is well spent and Mitchell’s strength shines brighter as a director rather than writer (at least in this case). His story is overly invested in ambiguity to the point of never having any believable convictions. Sure, there are multiple ways you could read the film, but finding validity within the movie for any reading is a real challenge. And for a story anchored in sexual anxiety, some of the the character’s actions left me scratching my head.
But again, Mitchell’s sense of atmosphere and tone is a real highlight. He has a captivating command of his camera and the fantastic synthesizer-heavy score is reminiscent of classic John Carpenter. The only time he loses it is in the film’s climax – a hokey indoor swimming pool sequence that doesn’t work on any level. It’s an unfortunate way to finish but kinda fitting for a movie so full of ups and downs.
VERDICT – 2 STARS
This was an interesting read! I’m one of those that hails this movie as one of the greatest but then – it was the first movie to get me into horrors and I’ve watched a lot since.
I think most people are probably with you. I’m sorta hiding in the minority but I gotta be honest. LOL
I couldn’t disagree more with this review and I kind of enjoyed that fact because it gives me someone else’s perspective on it. I absolutely LOVE this movie and it gets credit for being THE film that got me into more arthouse cinema and niche films as I decided to see it completely on a whim one day when I was bored. If not for how much this movie fascinated me I probably would have never started my review blog in the first place. Interesting read though and I’m sorry you didnt enjoy it. It’s slow burn horror, an approach that depends more on the scenario and setup than more in your face scares to drive home its horror. Like “The Witch”, “Hereditary” and even “The Shining” it’s not for everyone and requires a certain amount of predetermined investment to enjoy. In my opinion it really was one of the best genre films the 2010s had to offer but I can appreciate your take on it. I’d like to see how your opinions on this movie compare to other slow burns. If you havent seen “It Comes at Night” yet give that one a try. You might not enjoy it but I’d be curious to see if you enjoy it more that “It Follows”.
It’s funny, I REALLY like The Witch, Hereditary, The Shining, and It comes at Night. I don’t mind slow-burn horror at all. In fact I often find it more satisfying that traditional, in-your-face “BOO” horror. I just couldn’t shake some of my problems with It Follows. I still think the main conceit is just absurd despite its obvious allegorical meanings. And I thought the ending was absolutely absurd. For me personally it wasn’t nearly as crafty as it means to be. I do like some of its visual flourishes though.
my favorite coming of age, horror films of all time.
surprised you did not like it.
Interesting. What made it work for you so well? I’m genuinely interested. It seems a ton of people REALLY like it.
The sense of life passing us by and us being unable to achieve anything noteworthy. There’s a phenomenal monologue by the lead girl, just before she’s drugged and put to sleep, which illuminates what is, in my mind, the thesis of the film.
And then it’s us running away from the ever encroaching reality of life, in whatever form it might be. We never really defeat it, but can only hope to stay one step ahead of it.
It’s such a parable on life and the loss of innocence and the need to fight against hopelessness, i really loved it.
Well I had to go and read the plot on wiki, and came to the conclusion that a) the writer has serious issues, and b) I’m too old for this crap. I guess there’s a reason why horror movies are mostly about a bunches of teenagers, but I don’t have a psychology degree and I can’t be arsed to think about it. 😀
HAHAHAHA…I love A and B. It truly seems to be a beloved movie but I personally don’t think you’ll be missing out.
Wow… I’m one of those people that enjoyed the film. Sorry it didn’t work for you.
You are definitely in the majority my friend. I think pretty much everyone I have heard from were big fans.
To be honest, I found it overhyped as well. Both this and Under the Silver Lake suggest that David Robert Mitchell is a director who views mimicking his heroes (John Carpenter and Robert Altman respectively) as a selling point. It Follows works much better than that film, if only that it suggests the creature as a walking metaphor for STDs, but it’s no Halloween. Nice review Keith.
Thanks man. I’m just happy to hear I’m not completely alone with this one!
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I found It Follows to be quite a perplexing film… in a good way. First of all it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it is set. The soundtrack is pure eighties electronica, the TVs are all from the 70’s and there are no mobile phones but one of Jay’s friends appears to have an eReader. There’s also clearly a lot of symbolism around modern relationships, sexually transmitted diseases and even potentially the disintegration of the family unit. At the same time it is also a creepy, atmospheric horror movie that eschews gore in favour of creating a sense of unease especially considering that the presence following Jay appears not to have any motive for its intention to kill her. It is potentially a bit slow moving and less scary than it is unsettling.
I know most people really went for it but it left me a little cold. Maybe I’ll give it another go on down the road.
That’s a really good word for it.
Despite your opinions here, I’m honestly quite surprised you haven’t checked out David Robert Mitchell’s other film, “Under the Silver Lake” (which I sadly haven’t seen either), yet. It got mixed reviews, but looks very weird (in a good way, from what I can tell), interesting, and even cult-y, so you should definitely see it when you get a chance.
I think it’s the mixed reviews that pushed it to my back burner. I do still intend to see it at some point.