Whenever a horror movie that's not completely terrible comes onto the scene, film lovers - especially horror buffs - can have a tendency to devolve into full-tilt hyperbole. This creates a hype machine that can make the movie implode on itself if it blows up too much. A couple of years ago, this happened to Adam Wingard's You're Next, an effective and well made slasher that still failed to be the earth-shattering movement in horror I had come to understand it was going to be.
This year, we have It Follows, the title of which is faintly reminiscent of You're Next if you were to draw a grammatical diagram. Actually, not really, but who cares? This is a film I was told about and read much about during its release earlier this year. People proclaimed it not only one of the best horror films of the year, but one of the best of the year, period. And although I agree that the film is quite good and has some really terrific moments, the ecstatic encomiums that have been rained down upon it might be too much of a stretch.
It concerns the story of Jay, a nineteen-year-old woman who lives in suburban Detroit. She has an alcoholic mother, a younger sister and a cadre of similarly aged friends with whom she spends most of her time. When we meet her, she is currently dating a mysterious, slightly older man whom she feels sort of affectionate to, but attracts her primarily in a sexual way. Their date to the movies goes south when the man spots someone who unnerves him in the theater, and then they end up having sex together in his car. Then while Jay is ruminating, post-coitus, about her childhood visions of her dating life, the dude knocks her out.
I started to get really iffy about the movie at this point, because I've pretty much had it up to here with sexual violence against women being used to goose up a movie or TV show's plot. This doesn't happen, fortunately, but what does happen isn't much better. Jay wakes up strapped to a wheelchair in a vacant parking garage, at which point her beau starts to tell her about a... thing he's passed on to her through their sexual intercourse. This curse will cause an unknown entity, masquerading as a person she may or may not know, to pursue her relentlessly until it catches her and kills her. Cue a creepy woman in the distance who starts walking towards Jay.
The pair survives the encounter, but Jay is left shaken. And that's all I'm going to say about this movie. It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell, lives and dies on its high concept. I'm pleased to report that most of the directions it takes its concept are inventive and thrilling to watch. Mitchell's visual approach is one of stillness and composure, in comparison to the down-and-dirty, shaky cam-laden that is de rigeur these days. His classy cinematography is paired with a really terrific electronic score by Disasterpeace, one that echoes the unmatched John Carpenter score from Halloween in how integral a role it plays in telling the story.
That It Follows fell short of its massive fonts of praise was expected to me. It's currently rocking a 96% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, which, obviously, is not a surefire way to arbitrate a film's quality, but I had very high expectations going in. Ultimately, I felt that Mitchell did not quite bring the film's premise to a satisfying, logical endpoint, although I did enjoy the ending and final shot, in particular. The film also slips into a conventional, boss fight-style climax that left me wanting more. But It Follows is nevertheless very successful at pulling off horror without blood and guts, a rare feat these days.