Review: It Follows

Director(s)David Robert Mitchell
Principal CastMaika Monroe as Jay Height
Keir Gilchrist as Paul Bolduan
Jake Weary as Hugh
Release Date2014
Running Time 100 minutes

Wow, my relationship with this movie is complicated. The first time I watched it, it was after its initial release in the US (2015). I had heard a ton of rave reviews about it and was super hyped. I remember feeling really bored by the end of the movie and cast it away as being over hyped. Fast forward a few years, and I ended up randomly seeing the movie on Netflix and decided to watch it again. This time I enjoyed the movie more, but still didn’t think it was that great. Finally, as I was making my best horror movies of the past decade list (coming soon I promise), I decided to give the movie one more watch and ended up genuinely loving it. All the details I had never paid attention to before like the cinematography and the score came into focus and I could appreciate the movie in its entirety as opposed to just honing in on the stuff I don’t like.

The film follows Jay, a high-school student, who receives a sexually transmitted supernatural curse of sorts. She’s told by her transmitter early on that the titular “it” will follow her to the ends of the earth, taking on any form it can to get to her. “It” can only be seen by her and other people who have been recipients of the curse. She can escape “it” for moments at a time, because “it” can only walk slowly towards her. To temporarily get rid of the curse, she has to pass it on to someone else. With barely any time to get a grasp on this knowledge, Jay is tossed out and forced to reckon with the horrifying situation she finds herself in.

The inherent idea of “it” is terrifying to think about. STD/STI’s are scary enough but “it” takes those fears and personifies them in the shape of something that uniquely haunts each victim. Adolescence is the time for a lot of early sexual exploration which is scary enough. It’s an act that makes you vulnerable to an other and to think that someone would willingly expose you to an ailment in order to survive makes the experience even more harrowing. However, voluntarily passing on the curse uses sex as a kind of social glue, giving it a connective tissue. It’s allegorical for how we begin to approach sexual relations. Yes, it can be scary and harrowing but it can also create positive tethers that prove conducive. It’s not just sex though – sex is only representative of the most intimate form of opening up with each other, so the movie can be interpreted at a more general level of the way we interact with one another. Every time we meet someone new we open ourselves up to a range of interactions. Despite the risks, there’s a lot of positives that can come from opening up. It’s a multifaceted message that allows for hope and enables genuine terror.

If that’s not your cup of tea and you just want to see actual scary moments, It Follows has them, but they’re interspersed throughout the movie. “It” violently brutalizes its victims when it finally reaches them and the aftermath of its encounter is presented within the first scene of the movie. Watching our protagonists interact with “it” make the endeavor feel hopeless and you genuinely get scared whenever “it” is in the proximity of the latest person in the chain of the curse.

Now that the story stuff is out of the way, I have to say the production values on this movie are through the roof. It’s an audio visual treat and you should watch it just to have the sensory experience. Mike Gioulakis knocks the visuals out of the park. You can pause the movie at any point and get a picturesque visual worthy of serving as a screensaver or being printed and placed in a frame. Every time “it” comes into the screen, the tension becomes palpable. There were multiple times where I could feel myself gripping my knuckles. The synthy score by Disasterpeace reminds me a lot of John Carpenters music and gives the movie this cool hypnotic feeling. It’s amazing just how different every track feels and I’ve listened to the album a lot while writing or reading. I absolutely adore the title track and how its incorporated into the movie. Every time I hear it the hairs on my arms automatically start prickling up, so I’d say its association with “it” was well established.

Now that we’ve gotten past the good stuff, let’s tackle my biggest issue with the movie- the characters. I couldn’t tell you any of the personality traits of the characters outside of some small facts about Jay. That’s right I said facts, not personality traits. Jay and her group of friends all feel incredibly stale. It’s not because they lack dialogue or chances for interaction. In fact, I enjoyed some of the conversations the group has with each other. It’s just all the characters have the same “gray” disposition. None of them are particularly energized and they come off as low energy. This compounded with the slow pacing creates the perceptual issue that nothing’s really happening, which is far from the truth. It’s not even that the performances are bad. For example, Weary’s performance as Hugh, the individual who gives Jay the curse to begin with, is great. His motivations come off as justified and scummy, which is exactly how he needs to be. It’s more so that characters are never told to approach situations with a lot of levity. There’s no real opportunity for high octane moments given the way everything plays out. This means the characters only have a few range of emotions to go through which makes certain sequences feel more boring than they should be. It’s an issue that bugs me, but not nearly enough to make me discount the movie like I used to.

Report Card

TLDRIt Follows is a treat on your eyes and ears. The idea of a sexually transmitted curse is terrifying, but the nuanced way the movie utilizes it to open up discourse on the way humans open up to each other is beautiful. This is a slow paced movie that relies on atmosphere so if you want jump scares or a lot of action, you may want to skip this. If you enjoy slow burn/arthouse movies then you might really like this,.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!


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