The first shot of It Follows tells you everything you need to know about the ensuing film. An unseen force plagues a scared teen set to a pop throwback John Carpenter era synth-soundtrack. The film gets off on the uneasy terror that surrounds these individuals, and at times wonderfully renders the it that follows them as not only unstoppable, but to all seemingly third-parties– an invisible force. It is ripe material that director David Robert Mitchell rifely plays with from all angles, but without a clear subject or purpose in mind. The focusing theme of the film, if any might beyond what’s considered irrationally terrifying; the uncertainty of coming of age, or the anxiety of intimacy is only a skeleton.
Budding scream queen heir-apparent Maika Monroe (The Guest) plays the titular protagonist Jay whose date night goes awry when her seemingly charming boyfriend gives something to her beyond sex, a killer entity that can shape-shift into anyone at any moment. She can get rid of it simply by giving it to someone else, however if she doesn’t then the horror of what follows will precede straight back down the line and pursue to kill all others infected with It before her.
The problem that I have with this movie is that it is not as interesting as it could be. In an attempt to cover a wide base Mitchell hints at all these possible directions this story could take, but seems content with just pointing them all out rather than pursuing them. The style of film as mentioned above is a throwback to an earlier era of horror, and fills in unfortunately little substance in addition to its unique basic premise, making the film often look pretty in its wide-angles but occasionally dull as well.
As a character points out a seeming double standard in the film’s second act: “It’s easier for you, you’re a girl.” One wonders why the film didn’t settle for a less desirable [male] protagonist, rather than an eye-candy starlet (albeit played wonderfully by Monroe) with a childhood friend-zone character waiting in the wings.
The film doesn’t do well to fit for an STD laden subtext either. This isn’t a cautionary tale thankfully; as those are overdone and the logistics of the premise aren’t further explained beyond the simple dream-like premise. As the director puts it in an interview with Digital Spy:
“I’m not personally that interested in where ‘it’ comes from. To me, it’s dream logic in the sense that they’re in a nightmare, and when you’re in a nightmare there’s no solving the nightmare. Even if you try to solve it.”
If the audience were simply given more information on the premise or if the editing were more top-notch, one would get a better sense of understanding this unstoppable force just constantly lurking beyond the lens. Instead the film is riddled with continuity errors. You don’t get the sense that It actually Follows, it often just appears when necessary, and I find myself waiting for it to come back lamenting the lack of an off-screen presence.
Furthermore, there are character elements that are introduced and never fully explained leaving the pattern of the film when it works too plain and repetitive and when it doesn’t inconsistent and confusing. In one scene It is described as stationary as the characters calmly occupy a movie theatre, in another scene the ghostly entity disappears altogether after chasing the protagonist for seemingly no reason other than to buy screen time. Those themes I talked about are awash in a mess of character decisions. That is how teen life is, full of inconsistencies, making it realistic and all the more spooky when something you can’t explain is stalking you, but it does not make a compelling film.
As anyone who has ever played the game “Slender” can note, such tactics of inconsistency can tap into a rare, beautifully forceful fear of the illogical & irrational not found elsewhere in the medium, but brings with it beyond those well earned fleeting moments of terror; continuity errors, boredom, confusion and frustration all into one package. I demand more for my patience to be rewarded. –Ensuite.–