I went in totally cold to IT FOLLOWS, only having seen some great reviews recognizing it as one of the best horror movies in years. I probably don’t see enough horror to endorse such a broad recommendation but the film is effective and has several jump out of your seat moments.
The technical filmmaking is terrific. The director knows how to create tension and scares through cinematography and editing, which is a skill that is completely separate from screenwriting.
The best moment comes after our hero has just had sex on a date. He knocks her out with chloroform and she wakes up tied to a wheelchair. We’re expecting to venture into torture porn territory here, but the guy makes it very clear that he has no interest in harming her. He is trying to help her. At this point, I was utterly clueless as to where the story was going. Is he crazy? Is she in danger? Why would he knock her out and tie her up in order to help her? What’s going to happen next? We soon find out that he’s tied her down so that he can show her the “monster” that will be following her and explain how to evade it and survive. It’s a terrific sequence and adds a disorienting element to what would otherwise be a static exposition scene where the rules are explained.
On the writing front, a few elements are lacking:
- The character development is non-existent, which is usually acceptable for a survival story but I’d like to have had some more information about our hero/protagonist, “Jay”. Overall, she comes across as meek and traumatized throughout and that’s not nearly as satisfying as watching a meek character evolve into an empowered woman (see DRAG ME TO HELL for an example of this.
- In terms of personal taste, it really annoys me when heroes in horror movies are slow on the uptake, which is what occurs here. In this case, the hero is told she has been given a curse, the rules of survival are explained succinctly, and yet it takes her a very long time to accept that it’s really happening.
- Jay’s intelligence is repeatedly called into question. It’s so much more interesting to watch a hero try to rise to the challenge, to plan, plot and scheme in order to survive. Here, she’s reluctant at every step, repeatedly returns to enclosed spaces, and doesn’t quite “operate” in compliance with the rules. For example, after the attack on the beach, she drives off, abandoning her friends when in reality, there was more than enough time to let them outrun the attacker and hop in the car.
- There’s very little exploration of the “promise of the premise.” Here, a beautiful teenage girl receives a curse she can give away by having sex with literally anyone. There are two teenage guys in the movie and both of them are willing (even desperate) to sleep with her, despite knowing the curse will be passed on to them. That’s not creating an ultimate challenge for our hero.
IT FOLLOWS is at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and that seems appropriate. This is a solid horror movie and those are few and far between. I’m still recommending that if there’s one horror flick you check out this year, it should be THE BABADOOK.