It Follows

First of all, I’d like to thank any and all who recommended IT FOLLOWS to me and/or urged me to see it in the theater. You were not wrong to do so. It was really cool to see a small independent horror film featuring a singular personal vision in an actual theater again. It brought back a lot of good memories. Plus, I have to say one of my favorite parts of the film ended up being its pushy retro soundtrack and the theater I saw it in sported an impressive sound system and was able to highlight that aspect it in a way that would be impossible (for me) to duplicate at home.

My overall experience was enjoyable, it was money well spent and I shall forever be happy that I went. That said, I’ve gotta say… and don’t hate me…I’m not exactly over the moon for IT FOLLOWS. I was left in more of a C+ to B- zone. I thought it was interesting and fun to talk about later but it in no way bowled me over in the way that I would have liked it to. This isn’t like when I went to see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and left with the feeling that its supporters were rubes or like when I saw YOU’RE NEXT and couldn’t wait for it to be over; I can totally understand folks liking IT FOLLOWS. I get it. Just as I once got the general consensus that FARRAH was the most beautiful of CHARLIE’S ANGELS even though clearly that honor has always belonged to KATE JACKSON. What I’m trying to say is, here comes a mixed review…

Let’s get what I appreciated out of the way. IT FOLLOWS often plays like a soothing throwback and I dig its shameless, fetishistic reverence toward nostalgia. I can’t, in good conscience, join the chorus that commends it for its originality due to it brazenly lifting scenes from ubiquitous classics like HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but I can give it props for being wise enough to pilfer beyond the surface and into the soul. What IT FOLLOWS has in spades (or at least foreboding Old Maid cards) is the understanding that the diabolizing of sex in horror films involving teens is more about expressing natural fears associated with leaving childhood behind then anything else. It’s a “mortal” issue rather than a moral issue and this film seriously seeps a sad melancholy “last days of our youth” vibe throughout. Yes, there’s a curse, a disease that one can catch by way of intercourse in IT FOLLOWS and that disease is adulthood. It does my Robert Smith loving original goth-ster heart good to witness teenagers waxing nostalgic for salad days as a once sanguine suburbia crumbles around them.

So yeah, tonally IT FOLLOWS works for me- my big issue, I’m thinking, is structural. I say this acknowledging that we’re all scared of different things and that scares are not necessarily the be all, end all when it comes to a successful horror film. I just found this movie inexcusably front heavy in the fright department to the point that it irked me. As you may know, the ambiguous threat in IT FOLLOWS can take the form of anyone living or dead and we’re told it has a tendency to mask itself as a loved one just to be extra sadistic. So in the first half of the film it appears as a decrepit, death-eyed crone (yikes), a hideous, toothless lady who urinates on the kitchen floor (zoinks) and a shadowy, too-tall dude who has to bend down to get through a doorway (check please!) and then for reasons I cannot fathom, the second half the film features the entity as a friend/invisible hair puller (meh), the bored looking original victim (snore), a naked man (day at the office) and the blasé absentee father of the protagonist (which may have the potential to be unnerving if it were only presented any other way than it is). Wouldn’t all of that work better in reverse? Maybe not, point is, for me, the movie becomes less and less scary as it goes on and that’s not my preferred scenario by a long shot.

And so I stand in the middle. As much as I’m grateful to see, after what seems like decades, non-model, normal looking humans on the big screen again, I find myself frustrated that so many confrontations and opportunities to add depth to the characters are shirked. As much as I was on board with the multitude of literary and cinematic referential nods, I couldn’t help feeling pulled out of the drama by all the winking, hipster aesthetic photo-bombing. I was more than happy to allow a parade of inconsistencies and un-knowables into the party in the name of surrealism and all forgiving “dream logic” but at some point, the smudgy lines started feeling more lazy than clever. In the end, my basic rule of thumb is that any movie that gets stuck in your craw to this degree is more than worthwhile and I plan to return to IT FOLLOWS somewhere in the future after the fawning has died. I’m very glad that it got a wide release and was able to play in the lone theater that is within walking distance of my home but if you asked me whether it deserved that privilege more than THE BABADOOK, HOUSEBOUND, STARRY EYES or THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, at this point, my answer would be (maybe) the first half did.

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Dylan Donnie-Duke
Dylan Donnie-Duke
7 years ago

I am with you almost point for point on this one, Unk. I walked out giving it a solid B, but most of that was due to artistic direction and tone. I liked the modern and retro mix. New cars, old TVs with rabbit ears, land line phones with cords, a WiFi makeup compact. I liked having no solid time frame. Some of the shot framing was very well thought out, as well. The way that we only see pieces of her parents (Disembodied voice of mom, parts of her face, dad in pics only, etc.) Loads of unconventional close-ups accompanied by natural sound. (What was up with Velma [I know that wasn’t her name, but it might was well have been.] going to town on that tuna sammy while reading to her friends? Manners!)
I couldn’t really put my finger on what was bugging me about it until I read your review. It was that the monsters became less monstrous\creepy. I mean, yeah, I wouldn’t enjoy being pursued by my naked, dead father, but her dad just looked like an insurance salesman. Bring back the incontinent hooker with a bad dental plan.
And that soundtrack. I bought it on iTunes in the parking lot of the movie theater. It now scores my workday.

Captain Blake
Captain Blake
7 years ago

Yep. Left with same mixed feelings, the opening 30 minutes or so clearly being the best IT had to offer. And I’d say the punch-line of the morbidly violent opening scene promised more of a kick than anything that came after. Walking out, all I could think was if only it had a couple more iconic frights, more pay off to such a great, stripped down urban legend premise, this could have been a modern classic. Beautifully constructed, great Carpenter-esque vibes…how did I not LOVE this thing?

And I’m also with you about giving it another go. The moody cinematography alone is enough to earn it a place on my Blu-ray shelf. Still, the out of proportion hype is just a reminder of how much so many of us miss old school creepy atmosphere and deliciously mounting dread in our horror films – something THE BABADOOK more successfully offered, and the success of IT FOLLOWS might lead other filmmakers to aim for.