Thursday, October 15, 2015

It Follows (2014) **1/2

I'll give It Follows an "A" for effort.  While visually impressive and well directed there's an off putting chilliness to its tone.  Many have compared the film to John Carpenter's Halloween and Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street and those allusions are evident throughout.  I even picked up a Scooby Doo influence.

David Robert Mitchell, writer and director of It Follows, obviously studied Carpenter and Craven's movies closely and used them as a starting point to tell his story by inventing a new approach for an exhausted genre.

The cliche of all slasher films are that the kids who have sex will die and those who don't will survive.  Many movies have deconstructed the idea, Scream and The Cabin in the Woods being two examples.  It follows goes in another direction, what if sex leads to horrible things happening to you and the only cure is to pass it on to someone else? Why deal with the problem when you can make it vanish? 

Protagonist Jamie (Maika Monroe) faces such a dilemma.  She begins the film in the middle of typical suburban summer hanging out at her pool, watching movies, going on dates.  After a brief sexual encounter she is informed something will begin chasing her.  At first Jamie refuses to believe it, but then people really do start to follow her.

The promising first half gives way to a lackluster second half. Jamie and her friends make one illogical move after another, I guess they are teenagers after all.  The dialogue also turns stale: "let's go to my uncle's cabin by the lake." For myself, a bridge too far. Even the final sequences, which are visually interesting, never achieve a satisfactory payoff.

There's a recurring theme of lost innocence reinforced through the visuals: empty swimming pools, change from summer to autumn, fading photographs. The teens even act like old people.  They constantly talk about the past, sit around the couch eating (soooooo much eating in this movie), watch old horror movies, and spend much of their time at the hospital keeping the ER busy. Apparently they have awesome health insurance.  The kids seem so bored I was expecting an Arcade Fire song to kick in at some point.

Suburban alienation and urban decay are in the subtext as well, the setting of Detroit is not a coincidence here.  If the suburbs of the 70s and 80s were safe havens against urban decay, in the 21st century the neighborhoods are looking less and less idyllic.

I admire It Follows for its retro style and unique look, but the thin narrative and empty characterizations prevent me from loving it.






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