Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto
Written by: David Robert Mitchell
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
After Jay (Maika Monroe) has sex with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), she finds that he has cursed her with a creature that only those cursed can see; a creature who continuously follows.
It Follows is an intriguing horror film that hearkens back to the late ’70’s, early ’80’s horror films. This is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a slasher film. Do you remember the quiet moments in John Carpenter’s Halloween? Right after Michael escapes but before he begins slaughtering? That is what this film is, from beginning to end. A quiet piece of horror filmmaking that is creepier for what doesn’t happen that for what does. It is a strange beast, to be sure, but it is a beast worth seeing.
After having sex with her boyfriend, Hugh, he knocks her out. When she comes to, he tells her that he’s not going to hurt her, but that whatever’s following him will begin following her. He specifies that it is slow, but not dumb. That it will continuously follow her and the only way to be rid of it is to sleep with someone else. He also says that if it kills her, it will be passed back to him. The creature can take any human form and only those infected can see it. Hugh dumps her off at her home and takes off. Then the creature comes calling and it’s up to Jay and her friends to stop it, or at the very least, pass it on to someone else.
As I sat in the theater watching this, I kept waiting for something to happen. Anything. It never does. This is slow burn, from beginning to end. While I was never creeped out by it or even thought it was scary, there are a lot of things to like about the film. When I say this is a unique horror film, I am not being facetious. This is a one of a kind film that lovers of old school horror, and horror aficionados will love. The majority of the public, raised on fast editing and excessive torture porn, probably will not like this. It will be too slow and they will not take the time to invest in the characters.
While there is a lot to like about the film, I did have a problem with it. In the opening scene, a girl gets in a new car and drives to the beach. She then places a call to her folks on her cell phone. Ok, cool. It’s a modern film. When we are introduced to the main character, Jay, the film looks like it is in the late ’70’s, early ’80’s. From the cars to the fashion, this looks like a period piece. Until one character is reading a Kindle type device. There are no cell phones, there is no quick cut internet search for this creature. If it wasn’t for the opening and that eReader, this would be a period film. The cars are older. Hell, look at the poster above and the car on it. The televisions are all old tube TV’s, with the curved screens. The films that are shown on the TVs are old horror films, much like used to be broadcast on the weekends on WGN. This film screams throwback, until the goddamned Kindle.
You know, I could explain the opening scene away as being modern, but the main film being a throwback. I could easily do that. But the eReader? That screws everything up. My only explanation? This was done on purpose. My thoughts are that the director, David Robert Mitchell, intentionally left this little flaw in the film as a callback to the problems that plagued the older films that clearly inspired it. If so, well played. If not intentional? Well, whoops. What you gonna do?
When I say everything about this film screams throwback, I even mean the music that is a synth score that really, really brings back memories of those old horror and fantasy films of the ’80’s, especially. It is a very intriguing choice, and actually the film benefits from it. It never lets you forget what you are watching. While I would never buy the soundtrack to jam to it, it fits this film well. The score has no delusions of grandeur, like most do nowadays. It is a synth score to a slow burn horror film.
After I walked out of the theater, I was a bit confused by what I had just watched. First, I couldn’t quite grasp why they were so terrified of the creature that only walks. Also, what the hell was it? The film never tells you. Like I mentioned earlier, there is no montage of internet searching for the characters to understand and find out what is staking Jay. It is never explained what this is. Of course, this can lead into many, many sequels and prequels. This concept is open to just about any number of spin offs. You can trace the mythology of the creature, hell, I call it the creature but I don’t even know if it is a creature or a shape shifting genie from Aladdin’s Lamp. Is it an alien, brought to earth on the tail of a comet? It could be just about anything. One more question, if you will all indulge me. Why was it a clothed, dead prostitute that pees itself one time and a naked old man standing on the roof another? Curiouser and curioser.
When all is said and done, I find that I have a love hate relationship with this film. I certainly didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it. It did a lot of things right, but left too many questions unanswered for my tastes. I can appreciate what was accomplished, though, and I can appreciate what was on display. This is a film nerds horror film, and they are about the only ones who will truly love this. The rest of us will be scratching our heads wondering what the fuss was about.
*** out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- The film was shot in and around Detroit, Michigan. That setting is a character of the film just as much as anything alse.
- Maika Monroe, who plays Jay, has also appeared in The Guest and Labor Day.
- The concept of the film revolves around a recurring nightmare that the director has had.