Movie Review: It Follows
You may have noticed that it’s been almost two months since we last reviewed a movie. That is partly because we have been busy with other things (exciting things!) but also because the dead of winter is a horrible time for movies. So, for the first movie we ventured out to see in a few months, I was excited – popcorn ready, boots laced up, sidewalk shoveled so we didn’t trip and fall on the way home. But, just as the 5,000 inches of snow that fell this winter crushed my soul and my arm muscles (living vicariously through Bob’s arm muscles, which were the ones actually doing the shoveling), so did It Follows crush my expectations.
The trailer makes this movie look like a horror movie junkie’s dream—scary things following people, a unique take on the genre, a movie that isn’t another Paranormal Activity. But the trailer somehow twisted the movie because really, nothing happens. The movie starts off fine enough: Jay sleeps with a totally dreamy guy who then gives her a curse that follows her around. The only way to get rid of it is to sleep with someone else, but then it will get passed onto them. If they die, it goes after you again. The premise seems like it would make a scary movie. The problem is with the execution. The movie doesn’t explore its premise enough—the curse is in the form of random people walking towards the victim, who only the victim can see. It Follows doesn’t explain why these people in particular are the ones that follow, and there is no pattern—sometimes it’s Jay’s dad, sometimes it’s her friend, sometimes it’s a random giant man. A character acknowledges this but it seems like the writers could have done better; there’s no point acknowledging a flaw without fixing it. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the curse, which means the writers missed a great opportunity to have some significance added to the movie.
Aside from that, the film itself loses its momentum halfway through. The characters engage in halfhearted plans that don’t make sense when you really think about it, and the movie feels more like it’s trying to fill the time slot than anything else. In school, writing professors always tell you that you must establish the “rules of the world” for otherworldly, futuristic, or magical realism places, and the same goes for movies; these writers did not establish the rules of the world and their movie, therefore, doesn’t have any kind of through line or significance. “It” may follow, but do we care?
Stars: 2 out of 5
What to bring: A deck of cards, because the movie won’t entertain you
The answer to my question: No.
It Follows is a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies, just like a Tofurkey is a turkey for people who don’t like turkeys. In the end, both tofu and turkeys are done a disservice.
The tofu end of this analogy is the sort of art-house coming of age film that film critics eat up; a moody set-piece about young teenagers with beautiful cinematography and plain, understated dialogue. This film is cleverly disguised as a horror movie though, which is where everything falls apart. Because the director is ultimately interested in telling the tofu story, everything concerning the horror plot feels like an afterthought.
After a great premise that provides a whole world waiting to be explored, the film decides it doesn’t want to explore any of it. We’re given a plot that goes nowhere and characters that don’t behave in a fashion anywhere close to what would make sense given the circumstances, and the sort of vague anticlimactic ending that may appear to some as thoughtfully ambiguous, but feels to me like a lazy substitute for a more satisfying conclusion. The culmination of the film’s failings as a horror flick comes in one of the final scenes set in an indoor pool that is sapped of all suspense because what the characters attempt is so obviously doomed to fail that it made me wish the writer of the film had more faith in both the audience and his characters.
Stars: 2 out of 5
How does it compare to other critically-acclaimed horror films?
Worse Than: You’re Next
Better Than: Rubber