Sunday, March 29, 2015

FILM REVIEW: It Follows (2014)


"Wow...this one is probably the worst film that I have seen in the theater in a very long time...and I've seen some stinkers!"

I heard someone say that after the credits rolled at the screening I attended of It Follows, the debut genre feature from Mr. three first names himself, David Robert Mitchell. It's kind of a shame. I could basically understand why someone who usually secures a ticket whenever a Paranormal Activity  film is released not digging this film as much as the rest of the audience. I can understand that opinion because, while It Follows  is obviously expertly crafted, it simply is not on the same wavelength as those over-processed hunks of Hollywood garbage that come out every year. In fact...It Follows  is working within its own refreshing universe and boundaries. 

The film opens on a young girl seemingly running away from something that is not seen. The young girl is apparently scared out of her wits...looking like she is out-maneuvering something sinister. It is an awkwardly tense scene that ends up unfortunate for the girl on a beach somewhere. It all sets up the mood and the imagery for what is about to follow (no pun intended). And Mitchell handles the whole thing like a fucking master. Beautifully shot and impeccably scored. Especially that impeccably scored part. This is certainly one of those films that is elevated to much higher ground by its amazing soundtrack alone. I could not imagine this film working with any other soundscape. So unnerving and unrelenting. Familiar tones evoking an exciting time in genre cinema long gone. What Rich Vreeland (who also plays the school announcer in the film) does here, musically...is brilliant. This will never happen...but, the man should be recognized next February by the Academy.


Mike Gioulakis (who also lensed a favorite of mine, John Dies at the End) does great work with matching the look of the film with the sounds. Everything feels so genuinely placed in a certain time...familiar in tone. The film makes it a point to be sort of ambiguous with its time-stamp...only giving away that it takes place in the present time with the Nissan Versa that the girl in the beginning drives off in. Everything else could be from somewhere distant and Gioulakis creates such a haunting, yet dreamy look, complimenting Vreeland's soundtrack and Mitchell's overall vision.

Maika Monroe is the lone familiar face in this cast of relatively unknowns, the final girl in last year's breat-out film The Guest, here she plays the lead role of Jay Height, a lovely young, seemingly, innocent girl getting ready for an evening at the movies with her new boyfriend by floating dreamily in a backyard bargain pool that hasn't been kept up with all season. There is light chatter amongst the film's introduction of her circle of friends and family. A fart here...and a chuckle there, suggesting that these are the people in her life that will matter once things go south. Well...we soon learn that her boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary) does not share the same intentions as Jay does as she recalls the thoughts she had as a child regarding dating and whatnot. Hugh means to give Jay something more than just a night of sexual bonding...he wants to pass something off to her. He passes "It" to her. An evil supernatural entity that stops at nothing in order to end the next victim in this sexual chain of sorts. In fact...after their sexy time, Hugh forcefully explains the rules of the chain to Jay before ultimately dropping her off half naked in the street in front of her home...as gentlemen in films like these often do. Well...now Jay has "It" and quickly learns that it is harder to get rid of "It" than she ever anticipated. This is where things get going.


I won't reveal much else for fear of spoiling the ride. I will only say that It Follows  does not follow the usual genre formula. The film uses most of the familiar tropes to its advantage and creates something more than just a "supernatural stalk" film with sexual commentary. It is a film exploring trust and relationships and the unconscious chain reaction of the decisions you make in life. Every day human aspects like accountability and responsibility are dealt with...and, unfortunately those reasons will ultimately cause the film to lose steam at the box office. Especially with the hype machine working overtime. It doesn't have silly little possessed doll jump scares and dumb people running around with video cameras filming each other. This is a film that goes deeper and resonates. Having said all of this as a person that usually cheers for films such as this to make a ripple in the landscape of genre film...I just didn't relate to It Follows. Perhaps it is the hype growing from last year's whispered praise at the festivals leading up to this past weekend's great wide-release of the film. Maybe I was expecting something different. I'm not sure. I just didn't connect with the film. Not my cup of horror, I suppose. Believe me...I tried.

I feel like the film just didn't grip me as much as a horror film is supposed to. The concept of "It" stalking its victims as the film progressed just fell flat. Perhaps the scariest thing about it all to me was the scene in Jay's kitchen when she confronts "It" in her own home. Such a violation of comfort in the most irrational way. That scene resonated with me for the simple fact of taking the things that you know about horror films and shifting everything around. Great stuff. However, that was pretty much the high point for me. I felt like "It" gripped me by the throat as a viewer in that one scene and kind of just loosened its hold for the rest of the film. Maybe it's a subjective thing.

In the end...I do praise the film for attempting stuff that other films in its class fail to do time and time again. It is a film that should be seen, no matter your flavor of genre cinema. It Follows  is full of great performances, original story-telling and a truly perfect soundtrack that gives the experience its wings. But is it the genre game-changer that everyone is claiming it to be? Is it the horror film that everyone has been waiting for? Did it give me nightmares long after the credits rolled. I don't think so. I had a much better time at the theater just last year with other films of its like. Honestly, I felt it to be kind of mediocre. I will say, however, that It Follows  is part of a new return to the kinds of films that do something much more than unnerve you and scare you. It is the kind of film that will make you think...deeply. And for that..."It" very much deserves your time.




Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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