It Follows (2015) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

It Follows (2015)

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Jay thought she had met a nice guy who treated her to a wonderful night.  But after they have sex he drugs her and she wakes up in a wheelchair.  Her "nice guy" passed on a curse which can only be transmitted through sex and makes her the target of a creature who never tires and will not stop until she is dead.  David Robert Mitchell wrote and directed It Follows starring Maika Monroe.

The target is clear - the pursuit less soIn recent years we’ve seen a surge of nostalgia coast over different forms of media. Musicians are putting out albums on vinyl again, video games eschew modern advances in digital modeling to return to pixels, and an increasing number of movies are mining our childhoods for the next big thing. If I were to look at It Follows from an entirely cynical perspective of nostalgia pandering then I would have to call it one of the worst movies of 2015. Writer / director David Robert Mitchell has such an open appreciation of early slasher films like Halloween it becomes hard to watch his sophomore feature-film without thinking of previous high points of the genre.

But what Mitchell does is much harder than simple emulation of old horror tropes. He repurposed them for a generation who is more psychologically and technologically savvy. The evil can’t be explained away with a doctor, reasoned with by a scared teenager, or fought with new weapons. There’s no point to figure out whatever “It” is, because once you’re infected by the disease you will die in time, all you have to do is wait your turn.

This inevitability is what also separates It Follows from other horror films. Too often horror returns to the well of sex and punishes those who indulge themselves before the proper time (marriage, more or less). But sex is how we all got here, and we all go out the same. Consider the rules of the creature as explained in It Follows, the curse can be passed on by having sex with someone, but all the creature does is move on down the list to the last person you had sex with. This doesn’t speak well of hookup culture or a monogamous relationship, as once one partner is dead the next would be soon to follow.

Mitchell keeps our eyes searching the background of every scene for what guise the creature is taking next.

Mitchell keeps our eyes searching the background of every scene for what guise the creature is taking next.

So for all the overt Halloween themes and shots of implausibly empty roads filled with leaves, the more important connection point may be to the films of David Lynch. After all, once Jay (Maika Monroe) learns she has the curse from Hugh (Jake Weary), he violently dumps her back on her front lawn without letting her put her clothes on. This humiliation is similar to the fate of Isabella Rossellini’s character in Blue Velvet, as she was dumped naked on the lawn of the boy spying on her.

But the circumstances around each world have changed, and It Follows is wise to roll with those changes. Instead of the suburban world hiding a decay, the suburban world is the decay. There are no heroes or pure people, at least not in a way which seems “fair”. Jay didn’t do anything wrong, and the way her innocence was taken advantage of is reflected in the pink underwear she wore for Hugh. She wanted to present herself to her boyfriend, not be an unwilling tool to be rid of a curse. There are no protectors in It Follows for Jay to find comfort in once she is infected, no police to call and save her, only temporary relief in hospitals before going back to the real world.

We’ve become so inundated with information in our modern age that it seems we’re always waiting for bad news. Mitchell’s camera feels the same, pausing on empty doorways and long hallways, lingering on Monroe’s face as she waits for comfort which is never going to come. The creature never runs, it always walks, and never tires. The camera is patient because the dread of the creature’s approach freezes Jay with the inevitable result of its touch.

Monroe, with her shaky confidence and barely controlled terror, proves to be a formidable lead in It Follows.

Monroe, with her shaky confidence and hypnotic determination, proves to be a formidable lead in It Follows.

The opening murder of a fleeing girl shows just how much things have changed. Serial killers used to wrap up the bodies of their victims like gifts, or put their body parts to some use. But when we see this mystery girl her legs are broken backwards and her face frozen in pain and fear. Once the creature got what it wants from her it moved on to the next. Mitchell is right to make the deaths of It Follows so brutal as it makes the creatures blank but persistent pursuit that much scarier.

So is It Follows scary? For the first hour, yes. Mitchell’s patient camera and casually disturbing presentation of the creature climaxes in a scene where it looks like a young woman with her clothes ripped off and dripping urine. Jay freezes and watches, unable to run because – no matter what – this is the fate she will come to. But It Follows cools off shortly after this, and when Jay and her friends start to fight back against the creature some of the edge is lost. There’s not much else to fear from a creature who can be shot, and, to follow the old adage, “If it bleeds we can kill it.”

Better to think of the creature as the ever-present decay and rot we used to be able to conceal in our society. For some, each new scientific advance just shows how alone we are in the universe and our comfortable suburbs are just over-sized coffins. Even if you find a loving partner to stare down the abyss with it will still come, patient and persistent, to do with you as it will. It Follows may be built from familiar DNA, but the result is frighteningly appropriate to our present moment.

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Tail - It FollowsIt Follows (2015)

Screenplay written and directed by David Robert Mitchell.
Starring Maika Monroe.

Posted by Andrew

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