Sometimes style just isn’t enough.
It seems like every few years a small group of critics jump on the bandwagon of a horror movie and start declaring that “good horror is back.” As any horror fan knows, good horror movies never truly go away, it’s just that some periods are better than others. In the early 1990’s mainstream horror hit a lull after the slasher craze of the 80’s, but there were still gems like Candyman and Tremors to be found before the full return of the genre with Scream in 1996. Horror, much like rock and roll, never truly dies. It just sometimes goes a little under the radar.
The last few years have seen an upshot in really cool, under the radar horror releases. House of the Devil, You’re Next, The Babadook, and Late Phases are all independent horror flicks that have/will have a cult following. Mainstream horror films like The Conjuring, Insidious, and Sinister have also done bang-up business, along with getting a lot of love from audiences and critics.
The critical and commercial success of indie and mainstream horror over the last few years makes the buzz behind It Follows all the more strange. Going into the film I kept reading blurbs about how it was either saving indie horror, or how it was so smart (inferring that other horror movies are dumb I suppose), or how it had such great atmosphere, etc., etc. Needless to say I was definitely excited about what it had to offer. I didn’t know much about the plot of the movie going in so I was a blank slate for the most part, which is a good way to go into any horror movie.
It Follows is written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. The film begins with an unnamed girl seemingly freaking out about nothing. She is walking erratically around her suburban neighborhood in panties, a sleep shirt, and high heels, seemingly running from some unseen force. Her father tries to help her but the girl runs back inside her house and gets her car keys. She proceeds to drive to a riverbank, sits down and makes a call to her dad apologizing for her behavior. The movie then cuts to the next morning where she is dead and strangely mangled.
The audience is then introduced to Jay (Maika Monroe), a young college girl who lives with her two sisters (?) Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and Kelly (Lili Sepe). Jay is going on a date with a new guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). The pair attempts to go to the movies but Hugh has what appears to be a panic attack after seeing a girl in a yellow dress. The two go to an abandoned industrial park where, as custom has it, they have sex in the back seat of Hugh’s pristine Pinto. Like all good suitors, Hugh then chloroforms Jay and ties her to a wheelchair in her underwear. After Jay wakes up, Hugh tells her that he has given her a phantom STD that makes some sort of entity follow her. If this entity catches her it will kill her, and then it will kill him, and so on, and so on, until everyone that has come into contact with the “curse” is dead. It’s basically the worst kind of chain letter you can get. At this point a naked woman comes ambling towards the pair and the couple leaves the industrial park o’ love.
After the date from hell, Hugh, being the gentleman that he is, dumps Jay in front of her house before taking off like Burt Reynolds in Stroker Ace. Jay’s sisters (?) and their friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) come to her aid while their neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), gets high in his pristine Pinto while trying to score with his own sister (?). The next day a search is made for Hugh and it turns out that he lied about his identity. No one really seems to do much investigation on the law enforcement end of things, so the kids take it into their own hands and go searching for Hugh. Along the way Jay starts seeing various entities following her and her friends start questioning her sanity. Needless to say things happen, and the movie builds to a climax. Going much further would lead to spoilers, and seeing as how the movie just opened in wide release, I don’t want to give away too much.
So is this movie the savior of indie horror? Is it the best horror movie in years? Will it blow your mind? The answer to all of these questions is an emphatic no.
First off, indie horror doesn’t require saving. In the last few years I have seen more interesting, offbeat horror movies than in the decade preceding it. How can you save something that doesn’t need to be saved? People who say things like that are trying to put more weight to this movie than it requires or deserves.
Secondly, this movie won’t even rank in the best of the year to me. It Follows takes a lot of cues from some great horror movies and directors, most obviously John Carpenter, but it really doesn’t add anything new nor is it believable even in the world it sets itself in. My friend pointed out after the movie that no one even Googled the “curse” to get info on it. For a movie set in the present day (although Yara’s Wi-Fi capable birth control Kindle might infer that it takes place in the future), and featuring teenagers and young adults, this is something that is beyond ludicrous. It is literally the first thing most people, young and old, would do after being told they were had the ghost AIDS. This isn’t even taking into account the absolutely stupid ending that makes no sense. If you watch this movie, try to figure out how they came to determine their plan of action against the ghouls. It will make your brain hurt.
Thirdly, the movie is in no way mind blowing. The film tries to be stylish, and by stylish I mean it looks like nothing has been updated since the 1970’s. The problem is in all of its hipster dress-up it fails to make you care about the characters. This movie is bad style over substance. The film cares so little about its characters that one of them gets shot at one point and no one even bothers to check on them. The character is just left there. I assumed the character was dead but, lo and behold, they survived. If the filmmaker cares that little then why should anyone in the audience give a shit?
There is truly little to recommend in It Follows, which is unfortunate really. The film looks good at times and the score has its good moments (although some intolerable ones as well), and all the performances are fine if you’re into characters that are mostly devoid of any emotions. The problem with the movie is in its execution and lackluster story. I am all for leaving some questions hanging, but It Follows doesn’t even attempt to explain anything nor do the characters really seem to care what causes any of it. There is more character development and answered questions in David Cronenberg’s Crash, and that movie is beyond dumb (but so entertaining).
For my money, horror fans should pass on It Follows. After watching such a great new horror film like Late Phases (review here) it pains me that this one is getting so much press but is such a lesser film, so go buy Late Phases on Blu-Ray and watch it instead. It Follows is a dud.
Until next time…