A Trip To The Movies – Review: “It Follows” 4.4.15

After last year’s highly acclaimed but ultimately disappointing “The Babadook” I was really looking forward to the second of this year’s first two good looking horror releases after “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” (which as you can see by my review, I wound up really liking) and then this one, which I essentially knew nothing about other than that saw a trailer for it before the aforementioned film. A trailer that looked like it showed great promise. Also, coincidentally, a movie that got great reviews, which is rare in this day and age in films of the horror genre. Let’s face it, the genre in and of itself seems to be a bit of a dying one. As there are countless retread and remakes of older classics that seem to be churned out one after another. A sure-fire sign that Hollywood, hell even independent horror films, are a bit of a dying breed. One thing I realized back in October when I did my “Top 5 Favorite Horror Films of the Past 5 Years” section, is that I really could only come up with one single horror film I liked on average per year. To augment that statement, rarely does a horror film wind up landing on my end of/best of the year lists (one of the only films to have done so was in 2011 – when Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” wound up being my favorite movie of that year). The only other horror film to have come out that landed a spot on my top 10 came out 6 years ago and that was Ti West’s “House of the Devil” (2009). It seems like it’s nearly next to impossible these days to come out with something that’s truly original and innovative enough to separate itself from the rest of the bunch coming out of the genre, and only once in a blue moon does a horror film come along that I truly feel breathes new life into the genre. So going into this one, while having heard great things via word-of-mouth, I have to admit I was slightly skeptical that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. But even still, despite my skepticism, my level of anticipation for this one was rather high.

The movie begins with a young girl screaming, running from something, of which we can’t see. A few hours later, she winds up dead on a beach. We are then introduced to the film’s central character, a young teenager by the name of Jay, who’s romantically involved with another character, an older guy named Hugh. After a trip to the theater, things start to get slightly odd as Hugh claims to be seeing someone who Jay is convinced is not there. Jay winds up having sex with Hugh, but you see, this is much more than just sex, as without trying to give away any spoilers, Hugh winds up passing something along to Jay, something in which she is now afflicted with. It is through this pivotal sexual encounter that the story begins to unravel, as Jay and her neighborhood friends try to stop the evil curse that Jay has unfortunately found herself with. I’m going to stop there, because the less I tell you about this film (if I haven’t told you too much already) the better (similarly to how I felt about Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” (2012) ). Like that film it’s one of those rare films that come along every so once in awhile that really needs to be seen before it should be explained.

As mentioned the less I talk about the film’s content itself the better. What I will say is the film met my expectations and then some as it truly was an exercise in something that felt totally unique and original. And succeeds mostly in its execution on a lot of levels. It’s genuinely unnerving and tense throughout. While also being cerebral in that if you’re not paying close enough attention you might not have a clue as to what’s going on. It’s very much a “thinking person’s” horror film. You actually have to do quite a bit of work to formulate what it’s about (but it’s all there if you’re paying close enough attention). It does a great job penetrating the audiences psyche, and creates a certain tone and atmosphere that had both me and should have any other movie goer wide-eyed and transfixed by the images that are being shown on-screen. And while although I wouldn’t necessarily call it “violent” (not a deal breaker for me with horror as I like my horror to be more psychological) per say, it certainly is equal parts disturbing, shocking, very creepy, and startling. In fact, I was so immersed in it that my “holy fuck” meter was at about an 8 throughout the entire duration of the film from start to finish. The film itself felt influenced by “j-horror” films (Japanese horror) like “Ju-on: The Grudge” (2002) and “Ringu” (1998). Both of which most Americans saw in their English remakes “The Grudge” (2004) and “The Ring” (2002). It was also reminiscent of early horror films that came out of the mid seventies to mid eighties in terms of feel and tone. Films such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984), and what I found to be its most direct influence – 1987’s “Prince of Darkness” which all acted as reference points. I also thought it shared influences with more contemporary films like “Timecrimes” (2007), “Triangle” (2009), and “The House of the Devil” (2009). The latter of which it seemed like it took quite a few notes from as a throwback piece to older, more classic horror films. The music was also integral to the film as it contained a great menacing, pummeling, synthesizer score by the group Disasterpiece. I honestly can say I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the film half as much as I did if it weren’t for the score. It elevates the tension and pacing of the film quite nicely throughout, never giving up steam, and seemed to fit perfectly. If I were to throw in one or two minor complaints of the film it would be that it loses a tad bit of momentum in it’s final quarter. As Jay and her Scooby Doo rag tag team of neighborhood friends take the action to the 8-mile section of Detroit. The events that transpire after this, particularly towards its grand finale, come across as somewhat underwhelming compared to the nerve wracking tension the audience had been privy to prior to this shift in location. But that was just my opinion and my fellow film goer didn’t necessarily feel like that portion of the film detracted from it. With that said I also felt like it ended on a bit of an anti-climactic note. However, despite these two minor criticisms aside, this is as close to something that resembles a masterpiece in the current horror landscape from first time writer/director David Robert Mitchell. Who hits most of the right notes with this highly innovative, singular, and by all accounts terrifying piece of film-making, and has already positioned himself as one the freshest new voices in modern day, American horror.

[B+]

4 thoughts on “A Trip To The Movies – Review: “It Follows” 4.4.15

  1. Thought it was a little too on the slow & patient side to give it an ‘A’ but it was pretty intense. Felt like you were almost stuck in a terrible nightmare for an hour & a half & did a great job presenting the story with almost like a dreamlike mood.
    Characters were all developed well & I actually did like the way it ended – ending was like the style of the entire movie, lingering horror.. 86/B. It is the best horror movie I’ve seen since 2013, The Conjuring B+ or 2012, Sinister A-.

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    1. I agree with most everything you said but there’s just one thing I wanted to point out – you say it was “a little bit too slow and on the patient side to give it an ‘A'”. And while I would agree that it wasn’t quite ‘A’ range (but came very close for me). That slow and patient component you speak is one of the film’s greatest strengths. When you speak of “lingering” horror (a great description by the way) evoking Ti West’s “House of the Devil” in terms of creating a certain mood above everything. It’s expertly done. Though as mentioned in my review, which you seemed to take a bit of a different stance on, I thought the execution/climax of the film didn’t end as strong as it maybe should have. That being said, it was my favorite horror “meta-exercise” (i.e. combining different elements) that I’ve seen since 2012’s “Cabin in the Woods” (though I also loved the films you referenced as well). I just thought it shared more with it in terms of breathing new life and originality into a somewhat tireless genre of retreads and remakes. Along with an incredible score by Disasterpiece (which highlighted how important a film’s score was/is in terms of creating a certain mood and tone). I felt similarly to how you did and probably only liked it better because I saw it in the confines of a dark, so quiet you could hear a pin drop, movie theater surrounded by an audience. Which I think like with any film, certainly enhances the overall “experience”.

      Also, and I agree with your text – a TOTAL flashback to a movie we probably would have watched with mind-altering CB flugs back in the good ole’ days of the tripped out/black-light basement at 105 Stanley Dr.

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  2. “It Follows” B. Decent horror film here mainly propelled by the fantastic soundtrack from DISASTERPEACE. His tones definitely showcased the darker side of film. Giving definite credit for original script but I didnt really find anything about it erry/dark/scary. Maybe I would need to watch it again, but a solid film not near A range for me. I just kept thinking man this film could be really nasty if it was a tad bit darker. Worth seeing for sure though.

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  3. You pretty much nailed the head on the coffin with your comment about the film’s score. I think of any film I’ve seen this year without the incredible score by DISASTERPIECE this would have only been half of the film that it wound up being. It was a great nod and paid homage to the great original scores of early John Carpenter. I would also tend to agree with it not necessarily being all that scary, but did think it was pretty dark (as far as commercial horror films go that are released in wide distribution). I liked Mark’s comment about it feeling like “lingering” horror where you constantly felt like something was about to happen. I also just saw it recently for a second time and it didn’t hold up to the first (maybe because I watched it at home and at didn’t match the so quiet you could hear a pin drop theater experience of the first time). So it dropped a bit from my original grade of a [B+/A-] to a [B/B+]. Either way, I gave it more credit for its originality and inventiveness than I did for its execution (the climax at the pool felt a bit short for me). But yeah, had the director of made it a bit more psychological rather than just lingering/”wait for it” horror I might have liked it a bit more. Still, as a standalone horror film, in a year (other than “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” and “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”) its been a highlight in an otherwise mediocre year in terms of films coming out of the horror genre.

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