Sunday, 1 November 2015

It Follows (2014)



This American horror movie may have slipped by some folk, which is a pity. It's an excellent reworking of a familiar theme - one used in at least two classics of the genre and quite a few lesser movies.

It Follows is the story of Jay (Maika Monroe), a teenager enjoying her summer who goes out on what becomes a very bad date. She is drugged and strapped to a wheelchair, then confronted with what she is assured is a shape-shifting entity that is going to kill her, if it catches her. The twist is that the thing, which only its 'targets' can see, can only move at a walking pace. In theory, you can always stay one step ahead. In practice...

As in Night of the Demon, the very first sequence in the film has already shown us that something truly disturbing is going on. So the film wastes relatively little time on the notion that Jay is crazy or the victim of a sick prank. Instead she and her friends try to find out what they're up against and how to evade or defeat it. It's a simple film, in fact, and certainly doesn't outstay it's welcome. But it's also subtle, intelligent, and notably devoid of knowing winks at the audience. There are a few references to landmark movies, though, particularly a swimming pool sequence that recalls Cat People.

The malign entity itself is novel in that it takes on the form of people (real or imagined) of significance to its victim. Thus is ranges in appearance from close relative to childhood bogeyman, hitting all stops in between. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell drives home the need for constant vigilance and evasion with a series of simple panning shots showing figures in the middle distance walking towards the camera. Any one of them can be the Whatever-It-Is.

The soundtrack is reminiscent of early John Carpenter channelling prog rock (there's an interview with composer Rich Vreeland here), and there is an odd Seventies vibe about It Follows. Not once does anyone consult the internet, yet we're in no doubt that this is today's America - people have e-readers. The emphasis is on physical action - get in the car and just drive! - because nobody has enough time to think. Oh, and the first lesson Jay learns is never to go into a place that has just the one exit.

For a film with plenty of genuine shocks, It Follows is not flashy or even particularly loud. Jay and her pals may be the least wisecrack-prone group of teens in horror movie history, and this makes them believable and likeable. A young cast portray kids who've been struggling with the concept of adulthood confronted by something far worse. There's a central premise in the film that I won't give away, but it makes the idea of passing on the curse (if that's what it is) morally problematic. Oh, and the ending will annoy some, but seemed just right to me.

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