Movie Review: It Follows
By Matthew Huntley
March 23, 2015
The most interesting thing about It Follows is its peculiar presentation. It has the look and feel of a 1980s horror picture, right down to the characters’ sensibilities and, for that era at least, their comparatively limited resources. They don’t speak about or use our everyday amenities like Google or Facebook (in fact, I don’t think I spotted a single computer in the entire movie, although one character does have an e-book, which looks out of place amongst everything else); they drive older, neutral-looking cars; they watch televisions with 4x3 aspect ratios; and they eat and drink cheap, off brand-looking products. Where they live could also be any blue-collar town in America (the kind we saw from a lot of ‘80s movies) - it’s indistinct, moderately rundown and not terribly attractive.
I applaud writer-director David Robert Mitchell for taking this approach because it not only puts it on the characters to be resourceful in old-fashioned ways, which proved refreshing and unique, but it also humbles the audience, reminding us what we used to have to do in order to obtain information. With our smart devices and high definition electronics, we’ve become quite spoiled in modern times.
But thinking about the movie’s production only takes it so far. What I don’t applaud Mitchell for is his rather listless execution of the material, or the material itself really. Does the story actually grab us, scare us or entertain us? Not really. Unfortunately, just like many 1980s horror entries, It Follows is essentially by the numbers and ineffectual.
At first, I thought the movie’s slowness was a way for Mitchell to build tension, create mood and set us up for some real, shocking moments, but after a while, it simply remains slow and standard. The whole time I was watching it, I kept waiting for it to take off and actually start to affect me, but that’s all we end up doing: waiting.
The plot is about as simple as it gets for horror: an inexplicable entity, with no history or motivation, sets out to kill the person it’s currently “following.” Only the person to whom it’s presently attached can see it, which takes the shape of any person they might know and whose only means of getting around is by walking slowly, although it sure seems to cover great distances in a short amount of time and has an impeccable sense of direction. The way to “pass it along” is by having sex with someone else, although if the latest victim has succumbed to its deadly forces, it starts to work its way back in the chain, so no one in its line of terror is ever really safe.
Jay Height (Maika Monroe), a 19-year-old college freshman, is its latest target, after the duplicitous Hugh (Jake Weary) sleeps with her just so the apparition will leave him alone. He essentially leaves Jay for dead after he explains what it is and what it does, but this being a horror movie and all, and Jay playing the part of the strong-willed heroine, she doesn’t take things lying down or merely decide to pass the buck to someone else. Jay, along with her younger sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), attempt to fight it.
With the plot in place, things more or less play out the way we expect given the genre. The characters see and hear strange things; run and scream; do their research on what they’re dealing with; survive some attacks; run and scream some more; and then prepare for the final showdown with their new enemy at a decked out locale. It’s probably this last scene where the filmmakers spent most of their small budget since it incorporates the most action and special effects.
I admired It Follows for its offhand, old-fashioned atmosphere, including its raw neighborhood and indoor locations, and for cinematographer Mike Gioulakis’ shooting style (there’s a particularly effective sequence where Jay is tied to a chair and the camera is attached to the front, so we’re always following her). The low-profile actors also convinced me their characters could at least be real people, but real or not, Mitchell’s screenplay doesn’t give them anything interesting to do or say, even for a horror picture. The movie is only interesting in the sense it feels anachronistic for having been shot in 2014. Everything else about it, the stuff that matters, is languid, inconsequential and dull, just when it should be scary and engaging. In the end, there’s really not a whole lot to say about It Follows other than it drags.