Whenever a new, American horror film suddenly gets an enormous amount of buzz, a wheel inside of me begins to turn. The horror film genre as a whole has been in a sad and sorry state for decades now, and the ones coming out of Hollywood are undoubtedly the worst of all. The unnecessary remakes, the found footage fiascos, and the plethora of uninspired zombie sagas have taken a once unbound world of creativity and reduced it to forgettable, seat-filling dreck. As much as I hate to admit it, the foreign market is where I search for my new chills now, and I make a much bigger effort to unearth long lost VHS horror trash than I do going to the movie theater to see the latest CGI shitbath.
So when buzz gets going on a new horror movie, part of me gets excited, because I really, really want it to be good, but a bigger part of me takes a step back like a wise victim.
Be careful, Kris, you’ve been hurt like this before.
But, in most cases I usually find myself checking these new raves out, sometimes with big success (Hatchet, Behind the Mask) and sometimes with pulverizing disappointment (The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity). From the examples I have given, I’m sure you can sense a pattern too; the more widespread the praise, the less likely the movie will be any good. I have figured out long ago that the public has very poor taste in everything, and even worse taste in horror movies. But as a hardcore horrorhound, I crave new terrors like a strung out junkie. I lay huddled in the corner of an abandoned video store, subsiding on old Tales from the Crypt episodes until I can catch the next big fix.
So, when everyone started raving about It Follows, horror’s current flavor of the month, and when it received a wider release, I decided to go. It’s the first time my wife and I have gone to the movies in five months, our previous outing being to see the premier of Birdman, which we thought was a soaring turd, and then it swept the academy with its highfalutin, self-congratulating swill – further evidence of the public’s fried taste buds.
I went into It Follows knowing the bare minimum. I always try to avoid trailers or long synopsises of films. All I knew is what you all probably know too:
After sleeping with her new beau, a young woman becomes the target of an evil creature that passes from person to person via sexual intercourse.
You know, the Fuckadook.
From here on in my general bitching ends and the full review begins so there are some mild spoilers, but I avoid the big ones. But if you want to avoid a synopsis, mild though they may be, you can skip to my general opinion of the movie in the “final thoughts” segment at the bottom.
We begin with a solid opening sequence of a half-dressed teenage girl running up and down the street in her suburban neighborhood. So, so far, I’m a happy guy. She is in a state of confused terror and refuses help from her neighbor as well as her own father. She drives off in a panic and goes to a secluded spot on the shore where she makes a final goodbye call to her loved ones. The next thing we know it is morning and her badly mutilated body is shown on the shore.
This sets us up for the “it” part of the title.
After the credits the main story begins and we meet Jay. She is a pretty suburban white chick between the ages of 18 and 21 – pure, unadulterated monster bait. We also meet her sister, Kelly (a pretty, suburban, white chick just slightly younger than Jay), and their friends Paul and Yara. The lot of them are painfully hipster – complete with knitted leggings, seashell cell phones, and a taste for sci-fi films from the 50’s.
Jay goes on a few dates with a nervy guy named Jeff, and eventually she does the right thing – she puts out. But things take a dark turn when Jeff dopes her with chloroform and ties her to a wheelchair, which guys usually do before the sex, not after. Get your shit together, Jeff.
From here, the movie becomes pretty creepy.
Jeff keeps her tied to a wheelchair in the middle of nowhere, inside the ruins of an old building near the railroad tracks. He assures Jay that he is sorry and that he is not going to hurt her. He tells her he knows she is just going to think that he is crazy, but she has to remember what he says.
This thing is going to come after you. It can look like anybody. Sometimes it looks like people you know, just to fuck with you. But only you and other infected people can see it. You get it by having sex with an infected person. If you pass it on to someone else, then it goes after them instead of you, but once it kills them it goes back to chasing you, and so on down the line. Give it to someone else as soon as you can.
You know, lay it forward.
To convince her to take this batshit conspiracy plot seriously, Jeff waits for the “it” to arrive and when it does he points it out. It has taken the form of a brusied, naked woman and it is slowly making its way towards them. Jeff lets it scare the piss out of Jay, but then he gets them both the hell out of there and dumps her, half-naked, on her front lawn where her sister and friends are playing Old Maid (fucking hipsters).
The typical “we can’t find anything” police shit goes down and we start to get the very clear impression that parents will be non-existent in this movie. This is to the film’s credit, for the most part, as it creates that feeling of youth in solidarity, which we all felt with our friends when we were young, before we got old and bitter and started horror blogs. The group, along with their rock n’ roll neighbor Gregg, become like a less likeable version of The Goonies in their quest to save Jay from her invisible STD slasher, which comes a-stalkin’ right quick.
First Jay is in class, listening to her teacher give a lecture that eerily mirrors what Jay is about to go through, and she looks out the window to see the haunting image of a creeping old lady in a hospital gown coming towards her. If this scene sounds familiar it is because it is a clear homage to Halloween (the real one) where Jamie Lee Curtis first sees Michael Myers. This scene was also wonderfully recreated by horror legend Keenen Ivory Wayans in his chilling masterpiece Scary Movie. But director David Robert Mitchell makes many nods to Halloween in It Follows, from the retro synth score to simple yet wonderful scenes of the teenage girls walking through their neighborhoods in early fall.
For the next twenty minutes or so, It Follows really delivers. Jay’s initial confrontations with “it” are terrifying. The creature is filled with malevolent sentience – it appears randomly and chases her insistently. Its pace is sluggish, but it cannot be daunted. So, the whole first half of the movie works extremely well. We start to become just as paranoid as Jay. Every person we see walking towards her is potentially the monster, and actress Maika Monroe, who plays Jay, is very convincing as she depicts Jay losing her shit. The monster comes lurching for her, she freaks out, and she runs as far and as fast as she can. It’s a classic horror movie springboard.
Problem is, it doesn’t spring into anything.
By the halfway mark, we’re tired of seeing the monster creep up on Jay over and over again only for her to get away again. The problem is that we begin to see the monster as an empty threat. It gets close but all you have to do is see it and run. Then you’re safe for a day or two. This happens ad nauseum to Jay and, because she is the only one the monster is after and is the main character, the element of danger is removed entirely. The monster becomes a mere annoyance.
Alternate title: It Annoys.
Luckily, men will do anything to get laid, and I mean anything.
Both Greg and Paul are willing to “help” Jay by having sex with her so that they too can see the monster. This makes it possible for the monster to have someone other than the protagonist to limp after, so the threat comes back, but when the monster finally, finally, finally gets a victim, we are left feeling jipped by what should have been a brutal death, given the shredded torso of the girl from the beginning of the movie. We wait forever for this snail of a monster, having been given a prelude of a Mortal Kombat style fatality, only to see a kill scene that has the intensity level of removing a Bandaid.
The movie suffers greatly from these sort of letdown moments, its unbearable repetition, and the confusing nature of the story all together. For example, Jeff, who gave the curse of the monster to Jay, says that he thinks he got it from a one-night stand. He thinks. This means that he isn’t sure, which means whoever gave it to him didn’t brief him on the monster, and yet for some reason he is the know-all expert when it comes to “it”. In addition, no matter how badly these kids get hurt, the parents and even the cops remain nonexistent, and never separate these kids who would appear to be greatly endangering each other.
The pace of the film is slower than the monster itself, and the approach it takes to scaring people is uninspired and weak. Jay is the only one who can see what appear to be dead people limping around. Sound familiar?
The group eventually comes up with a terrible plan to trap the monster, which is okay, because they are teens, but what is not okay is that the finale is a total anti-climax, which is ironic for a movie that has so much to do with fucking.
If you have seen The Sixth Sense, The Ring, The Grudge or any other ghost movie from the 90’s then you have already seen all the scares that It Follows has to offer. The only difference is that this boogeyman is sexually transmitted. In order for a slow-burn horror film to work, there has to be an eventual fire, but It Follows sizzles out before the flame can catch. There is much to enjoy here, but all the John Carpenter homages in the world can’t compensate for a script that was simply never thought through.
In all, It Follows was just a tease that left this viewer limp and blue balled.
2 out of 5 stars.
CHICK OF THE LITTER
First of all, for a movie about sex, there is way too little nudity here. That aside, all of the girls in this movie are decades younger than me, so it would be creepy of me to say which one I think is the hottest. But I am a creep. A total creep. Still, instead of saying that barely legal Lili Sepe is a babe, or that the obvious Maiki Monroe is my choice, I’ll go with Olivia Luccardi, who plays the throw away character of Yara, who is supposed to be the one who isn’t hot, but that’s only by movie standards. Take off the glasses and you have a new woman. Also, she is the closet to my age, so I feel like less of a scumbag in your judging eyes.
It is with a heavy heart that I must admit that your bartender has steered away from alcoholic lavations for the last few months. As much as I love the craft beer world I have just weaned off of booze all together. I didn’t make a hard decision to quit or anything like that, I just found myself less and less interested. Beer was available as I watched It Follows, but I just had a Sprite because most places don’t sell Yoo-hoo, my beverage of choice.
But I want to recommend a brew anyway, as is the nature of the webpage, so I will suggest the Jalapeno Pale Ale by Bird Song, which my wife enjoyed while we watched the movie. It is an amber colored, chili beer that is native to our home state of North Carolina, and it provides a fresh flavor that will surprise even the most experienced connoisseur. Hopefully its surprises will make up for the lack of them in It Follows.