It is a well known fact that the vast majority of mainstream cinema for the first three to four months of the year consist entirely of garbage comedies, subpar action films, and whatever else the studios don’t feel like releasing during the summer. However, there is a genre that has occasionally managed to surprise me during those months: horror.
Maybe it’s just the weak movies they wind up getting compared to, but there have been some solid horror flicks released in the early months of the year: Mama, The Woman in Black, The Cabin in the Woods. None of these films are precisely masterpieces (…well except Cabin. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Cabin in the Woods, stop reading and go watch it) but they all make for good early year watching. And It Follows is probably one of the better ones…except Cabin.
The plot is devoted to Jay (Maika Monroe), a college student living with her parents in Detroit. After a date with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), they retire to his car and…well you know. Despite the date seemingly ending pretty well, he chloroforms her and ties her to a wheelchair and informs her he’s given her…well a Sexually Transmitted Monster.
The monster, which the film never feels like naming, will be following her at a walk from wherever it is, as directly as it can. It can look like anyone, from her best friend to a complete stranger, whatever will get her to drop her guard and let it get close. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it to someone else, the same way he did. If it catches her, it’ll kill her and then go after the person who gave it to her and then the person who gave it to him, and so on down the list.
When I first heard that premise before watching this movie, I may have involuntarily raised an eyebrow. It seems like a weak premise, the kind of thing you’d see in a late period X-Files episode (after Mulder left). But, through a combination of buying fully into the metaphorical underpinnings inherent to the concept and some startlingly good directing, it turns out to be a surprisingly functional premise.
Take the nature of the monster, for example. It seems kind of silly, just what amounts to a normal looking human approaching at a walk. But it allows for some extremely tense sequences, as the camera pans around the space the characters are occupying, any member of the crowd potentially being the monster. Even the ‘Normal Looking Human’ aspect is fudged a bit, with the monster occasionally appearing horrifically mutilated or otherwise off.
For a while, I was worried that the film would have trouble escalating things, as the premise doesn’t seem to allow for much in the way of a climactic showdown. And while that fear wasn’t entirely unjustified, it does manage to escalate things pretty smoothly. Having the monster show up more regularly and more intensely is a good way to amp things up and the final encounter is a pretty solid violent throwdown.
The writing is solid, if not precisely exceptional, with a lot of work being done to juggle a reasonably good sized cast, especially given how few of them actually bite it. Much has been made since its release of what the monster could be a metaphor for, with everything from STDs to teen pregnancy being floated as options. Me, I’m an Alien fan, so I went straight to assuming it’s a metaphor for rape, although I’d argue it fits pretty well (can’t trust anyone, reluctant to have sex again, no one believes her at first…).
But, as much as I liked it, it’s not a perfect movie. The acting is inconsistent, with Maika Monroe turning in the best performance and Daniel Zovatto probably giving the worst. Speaking of Zovatto’s character, the movie jumps through some fairly major hoops trying to keep him from believing in the creature, which gets tiring eventually.
But those are more minor gripes than major issues. Despite most of the movies so far this year having been disappointing, horror has been by all accounts having a fairly early year, and It Follows is definitely one of the better ones. If this is still playing near you, it’s definitely worth tracking down.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he actually saw this movie something like 2 weeks ago.
– extremely tense and scary
– solid script
– good directing work
– inconsistent acting
– character work can be up and down