Battered and weak, the feeble Manster retreated to the woods to find a shred of solace. He had been typing for days on end. His claws were bloodied. His black heart was thumping wildly. He needed a rest badly. His captors were hot on his trail and he didn’t know where else to run. His energy ran out and he collapsed face first in the snow.
He was frozen solid but deep in his slumber he could still hear the sounds of the drills. They had come to bring him back…
I’m back baby! After October’s MASSACRE MARATHON I was beat but I have returned rested and rejuvenated with a brand new horror movie review of It Follows! A few weeks ago the hype for this limited release was frothing over the edge of the glass and it got me thinking that I might not get a chance to see It Follows if they don’t release it in regular nationwide theaters. So I decided to drive an hour and a half to the closest art house theater to sneak a peek. Two days later, the pot finally boiled over and It Follows went mainstream opening in every triple A theater from here to Transylvania. Just my luck! At least now I can be a hipster and say I saw it before it was cool.
It Follows is a film that is hard to talk about without giving anything away but I’m confident I can paint you a good picture without ruining anything. Even the trailers don’t give any clues as to what the characters are running from! Yes, I will say right up front that I did enjoy it and I would recommend it to anyone that can appreciate a break from the horror norm, so if that is all you needed to hear I would suggest you go see it before reading the rest of this review!
The story starts with a shot of a suburban street in Anywhere, USA, reminiscent of slasher classics like Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street. The sun is going down as the camera starts to pan around, taking in the beautiful trees and quaint houses of this little neighborhood, when a door bursts open from one the homes and a teenage girl comes running out in high heels, down the driveway, into the street. Clearly, she is startled and trying to get away from something, but we as the audience cannot see what it is because the camera stays on the girl. It never stops slowly panning right either, creating an infinite 360° shot (some of you rad skateboarder dudes out there might call it a 720° or a 1080°), with whatever is chasing this distressed teen always behind the lens. She circles her way back into her house, runs back out with car keys and gets in her car. After speeding away we find her sulking on the beach at night with her car’s headlights illuminating the area where she sits. We then find out what happens when “It” catches you, but not what “It” is.
It Follows then shifts gears from breathtaking adrenaline to peaceful serenity by introducing Jay, a fairly timid, innocent girl who enjoys the tranquility of nature as much as she does dreaming about the perfect night out with her Prince Charming. She has a tight-knit group of friends, including her sister Kelly and neighbors Yara, Paul, and Greg. After going out with a guy she barely knows, Jay finds herself in a predicament. She is cursed by her date, and is told the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to someone else. Jay, with the help of her friends, attempts to deal with her situation by killing off her curse while questioning the morality of possibly passing the curse on to other people.
I almost forgot to mention how from the very first scene I was brought to the edge of my seat by the jarring synth score, no doubt intended to be startling and overwhelmingly unnerving. I spoke with others who disliked the movie’s “out-of-place” soundtrack but I feel it works really well. It is akin to the piercing music of Insidious that keeps the psychological aspect of the horror alarming, even when there isn’t much happening on the screen. It mixes well with the mesmerizing cinematography and the eye-catching, vibrant costumes (for being teenagers, these kids have an interesting style). The combination of their clothing choices and the eerily nostalgic music had some of my friends convinced this movie took place in the 80’s. It Follows also did a great job of providing subtle backstory. There are little things, like the alcoholism of Jay’s mother, or the hidden photo of Jay’s date’s last girlfriend that further enriches the story and rewards observers for paying close attention to details.
Unfortunately, I started to realize towards the end of It Follows the writer wrote himself into a corner. I had a feeling in my gut that the ending would be the type to leave the audience hung out to dry. Sure enough, the last scenes were vague and lacking closure. Throughout the film this tactic of ambiguously ending scenes was employed and it fit nicely because it created small pockets, or beats that let the viewers use their imagination, almost like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, to fill in the blanks instead of having upfront transitions that explain every detail for you. I just don’t think it should have been used to end the story. I thought there should have been more of a payoff. Ending (and a few stupid decisions the characters make) aside, the enticing visuals and panicky, icy-veined score combined with the relentless, ever creeping curse embodying dread itself creates the perfect experience of horror. It Follows‘ fresh ideas and heightened sense of impending doom brought out a specific fear I never knew I had. For that, I am grateful!
5 synth-scares out of 5