Horror aficionados are always on the prowl for the next scare, the next movie that is going to challenge them and disrupt their comfort zone. Some are gore fans, while others prefer a slow buildup before that sickening drop. Another faction prefers being on an express elevator to hell from the get-go.
So to tout a movie as “the scariest movie in the last decade” makes people alternately suspicious and hopeful. The golden age of horror wasn’t that long ago for most moviegoers. And people know this hype is for selling tickets. Desperate for a good story, however, fans will put up with a lot in order to find something passably frightening, or even a scare that has a “message”, the monster being a metaphor for any social ill that’s plaguing the very real landscape the audience finds itself in. Why? Because it’s better than nothing.
It Follows might indeed be better than nothing but that’s not saying much. The little indie film that could is being hailed as THE movie to see when, in reality, it is a flavor of the month film with a truly clever twist on an old theme everyone will recognize — teenagers die (horrifically) when they have sex.
To be fair, It Follows starts out with a fantastic opening sequence and ends with a disturbing visual. But unable to maintain the high energy and pace, the movie soon sinks like the proverbial stone once it begins drifting into the main story. And drifting is the perfect word to use for this film because that’s basically what the story seems to be all about — drifting.
The main character, a sullen blonde named Jay (Maika Monroe), floats in her pool. She looks at a bird. She floats in the pool. She looks at a squirrel. She floats in the pool. She looks at an ant on her arm. She floats in the pool. Boys watch her float in the pool. She looks at the boys. She drifts into her house where we meet her friends, the loyal wannabe boyfriend, Paul (Keir Gilchrist), her best buddy/sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and that other archetype in teenage horror films, the bookworm — what was her name again? And of course, next to no adults.
With few exceptions, this is the type movie writer/director David Robert Mitchell treats his audience to — long slow takes and not much dialogue, not to mention the unexplained “It”, the unseen title character. Is it a monster? Maybe. Maybe not. Mitchell doesn’t explain anything, giving the audience not much to go on, and there are serious lapses in logic in the final act.
Jay has drifted into a new relationship, and she has hot teenage backseat of the car sex with this latest paramour, a boytoy named Hugh (Jake Weary), who then chloroforms and abducts her — the truly frightening moment in the film — taking her to an out of the way place where he gives her a warning. He has “passed it” to her through the sex, and if she doesn’t have sex ASAP with someone else and pass it on to them, this thing, this “It” is going to follow her, and if it gets close enough to touch her, it will kill her. The film’s twisted view on sex is quite unusual compared to the normal representation of sex that we see on sites like teentuber and, unfortunately, is not quite as enjoyable either.
Nothing is known about what it is, where it comes from, what it wants. All that is known is “It” can show up as a stranger or as someone you know and if “It” touches you, you die a horrific death (that girl at the start of the movie sure did). So sex ensues throughout the movie. Set against the backdrop of a decaying Detroit, we see Jay’s paranoia and disintegration and lapses in judgment as she slowly unravels which, in someone else’s hands, may have elicited sympathy and terror as she is targeted by something nobody believes is there — until they do.
With no real explanations forthcoming, with no plot other than having sex to pass on the curse, It Follows is stitched together with occasional great bursts of action that can’t quite gel. It Follows starts out with a bang, but disappointingly dissolves into nothing more than a setup for the inevitable sequel.
While “It Follows” isn’t “the scariest movie in the last decade”, it is still better than nothing, which isn’t quite fair to the movie or the genre.