It Follows has been described as the best horror in years & an atmospheric modern horror classic. Critics are raving about it & that means it has to be great, right?
Never believe the hype…I can’t stress this enough as you’ll only end up disappointed. I want to preface this review by saying that you should never give a horror movie a free ride just because it isn’t another Paranormal Activity or a remake of a classic. We shouldn’t be in awe of a horror movie that is trying harder…we should expect it. A unique idea is fantastic especially in this genre but if it doesn’t result in a great movie then it means nothing.
It Follows is one of the most disappointing horror films I’ve seen in years…raising expectation to heights that I’ve not experienced in a long time. Not enough will stay with you & you’ll be left feeling like nothing really happened. Don’t confuse my disappointment with me suggesting that it is a terrible horror film though. It is certainly not…
The film opens strongly showing a teenage girl racing out of her house seemingly running from something. She doesn’t run far & appears to circle something unseen before running back in, getting her car keys & driving off to the bemusement of her father & neighbours. She drives to a beach, makes a call to her father telling them how much she loves him before staring wide-eyed at something we don’t see.
She ends up dead with her leg twisted at an angle that looks fairly nasty. It’s a good intro that leaves you begging for more.
We then meet Jay, a 19 year old girl who appears to be a bit of a day-dreamer living in a fairly nice part of Detroit. After going on a few dates with Hugh (who also has a someone following him moment) she has sex with him in his car.
Everything seems nice afterwards until he puts a cloth over her mouth & knocks her out.
She wakes up tied to a chair in a run-down car park with Jay walking around her talking about passing it on to her. He isn’t making much sense to her but for us it is clear that by having sex he passed some sort of curse onto her that will see a unknown creature/spirit follow her constantly at walking pace. This thing can look like anyone (spends a lot of time naked as well) & its one aim is to reach her.
Hugh tells her all this as it approaches…this is our first look at it & it comes in the form of a naked woman. Its slow approach towards Jay is methodical & uncomfortable to watch. Hugh gets Jay away from it & tells her that the only way to survive is to pass it on to someone else. He then dumps her, half-naked & still tied up outside her house.
Life carries on for Jay until she sees a old woman walking towards her with purpose while day-dreaming in class. Scared she runs out & sees the woman still walking towards her while others clearly don’t.
Alongside her friends & family, Jay has to fight to survive…constantly on the run while debating if she should pass it on.
Sadly the film is not as thrilling as it might seem. The methodical approach of it is well handled & the excellent score makes high tension moments even better. There are a couple of scenes where we see a person approaching & are unsure of if it is it or not. These are filled with tension sometimes but at others are handled poorly such as the meeting with Hugh later in the film.
Jay tracks him trying to find out more about it & they sit in the grass together while he tries to offer the best explanation he can. He spies a girl walking towards them & is clearly uncomfortable (the person who passed it on can still see it conveniently & it will start hunting the person before should it get its latest victim). He waits until it is almost on top of the group before asking if anyone else can see the girl. Why would you wait that long!?
Sadly we never really get any kind of explanation, it’s basically a ghostly STD & I came away convinced that it was left ambiguous so we could have a sequel. The film is not as intelligent as it thinks it is. It sub-text is simply…don’t be promiscuous; you never know what the other person has.
The qualities in acting ranges…the leads are excellent & portray fear wonderfully but are really unlikable. I struggled to care about most but in particular Paul who infuriated the hell out of me. He basically loves Jay from afar (original) & spends most of the movie seething with hidden jealousy while offering himself as the new host. It comes across desperate & I was convinced he had deeper connections to it with some strange longing shots of his face.
He doesn’t, he just really wants to get his leg over. The film leaves you with so many unanswered questions that just keep cropping up the more you think about it. Take Hugh for example…why go to this much effort to pass it onto Jay? Why not just go to a prostitute? It’s Detroit after all (the film loved these brooding shots of a run-down city) & the ending makes it clear just how easy it could have been.
How does Hugh know so much at one point but not know anything about the person before? Did he learn all this while being chased? How? He was next in line so the person who passed it onto him hadn’t been killed.
Why does it seemingly lose its threat once it gets to Jay, playing around by grabbing her hair at one stage & ankle at another. What happened to “don’t let it touch you?”
The final 30 or so minutes of the movie are laughable…all tension is dropped in favour of some elaborate plan to lure it into the pool & electrocute it. Paul comes up with this stellar plan (“do you trust me?”) & we get a Home Alone style montage of all manner of kitchen utensils being set up around a swimming pool (don’t get me started about plug sockets around a pool). Jay gets in…it comes & then starts throwing the stuff at Jay in the pool.
There is a subtle reference to the location of her father here (It has taken the form of a man who we’ve seen in a pic a few times & her mother is clearly an alcoholic) which rewards those who have paid attention. This bugged me as we had already seen that it clearly can’t be killed (earlier she shot it in the neck & it got back up almost instantly).
The final shot of Jay & Paul walking down the street hand in hand while it follows was a brooding way to end & really showcased just how it will eventually get you.
It’s less scary & more unsettling then anything, this is thanks to the excellent score that just heightens everything & it is the most praise-worthy thing…the film has a few jump scares that annoyed me (such as a ball at the window) as they felt forced & there are too few sequences involving it really getting close to Jay. The standout moment in the movie is when it breaks into Jay’s house…more of that please, & less montages of down-town Detroit.
This should have been so much better but it collapses under scrutiny & the weight of its own cleverness. An interesting idea well shot (most of the time) with an excellent score let down by lack of detail, jump scares & a poor final 30 or so minutes. The sub-text is not that smart & we really could have done with more happening to back up its threat.