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It Follows – Joint Review


Release Date: 27 March 2015 [USA]
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Linda Boston - Caitlin Burt - Heather Fairbanks

Posted February 16, 2015 by

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It Follows – Joint Review

Sedef’s Perspective:

Oh dear… I thought to myself as I watched the opening scenes of It Follows : a young woman in short-shorts, tank top and high heels (red, if memory serves) running from an unseen danger. I am NOT going to like this am I?

The story of It Follows is easily told. Jay is a regular teenager who is getting on with high school, home life and exciting forays into the world of dating and boys… But one day a handsome stranger who enters her life turns out to be not all he pretended to be. On the night they consummate their relationship he confesses that through this act, he has passed her some sort of curse, whereby a nameless being will follow her and hunt her down. The only way of getting rid of the curse (it is not called a curse in the film it must be said, but I am using the term for ease) is to have sex with someone and pass it on to them. Other than that, there is no escape. Wherever she goes, it follows, walking and unstoppable, towards her.

I have to admit, while what It Follows achieves is admirable it is NOT what I expected – which just goes to show you how wrong it is to go around constantly expecting things from art. What I, and in fact, in view of the incredibly tense and brilliantly cut trailer most people I talked to subsequently , was expecting more of a psychological study of… Well something. What the film actually is can actually be called a modern homage to Cold War era monster movies with a lot more thrown in besides… The film is purportedly based on a nightmare the director had as a child, but with the abundance of references throughout the film to black and white 50s monster movies and films like Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, (another film where the heroine is constantly followed around by danger) well, let us just say the initial concept has had some work done to it.

The fact that the film has such close ties with this genre of horror film means of course that there are quite a few tropes you and I would consider slightly outdated. It turns out heroines running around in short shorts and bathing suits are definitely a thing in this universe. Grownups are practically nonexistent (there is a passing reference to a mother that drinks and is oblivious but apart from that, grownups only seem to exist in photos on walls) making the film universe a rather bizarre variation on Enid Blyton. Our teenage heroes watch black and white monster movies on Tv and read Dostoyevski on their phones (not impossible but definitely improbable for high school students). Without giving too much away, the bit where the monster finally became concrete, (you know, on the beach for those of you who have seen it ) actually almost had me in giggles even though I do see its cinematic necessity (somehow Jays friends have to start believing her after all). And lastly, if director David Robert Mitchell had panned around in a circle ONE MORE GOD DARN TIME I would probably have thrown up.

That said – and at this point this phrase may well surprise you – I loved the film. For all the panning round in circles, Mitchell uses very well chosen music (some of which is directly from the worst era of 80s synth pop, but bizarrely it works), subtle camera work, long, pregnant pauses and a group of very talented young actors to very quickly establish a constant sense of impending doom. Jump scares – a staple of horror films – are used of course, but they are few, far between and used superb effect. This sense of foreboding once created, Mitchell compounds it by never revealing what EXACTLY the nameless horror is. Oh it is a true thing of nightmares, nameless, faceless (it constantly changes shape to look like someone else each time), unstoppable, invisible to all except the victim and (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of the film there is no catharsis. We never find out what the creature is or how to get rid of it (or even if this is potentially possible). And this is what makes this superbly different from big budget horror films (50s and later); there the trope of the nameless horror is used for a short while, then the horror is given a name, a face, more often than not a history, an ancient spell or talisman that kills it is revealed and phew, we can all go back to our lives. Not here. And actually this – for all my moaning – makes the film structurally more like a REAL nightmare than any other film I have seen.

Of course like a true nightmare, when you emerge blinking out of the cinema into the cold light of day, there are things that don’t make sense (like, it was truly dramatic and scary but what was the actual POINT of the sequence at the pool? – that’s one point where the concept of no explanations was pushed too far in my view). But while you are in the cinema you will be disturbed, scared and you will emerge with a head full of questions. Which is what we all want from our horror… No?

Written By:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 18.55.20

Sedef Hekimgil
Essie Speaks
Full Contributor


Josh’s Perspective:

Considering the sheer volume of filmed material that has been produced over time, it seems rather unlikely that 100% of a new film will ever be wholly ‘original’ again.  Audiences are used to seeing and knowing everything- in fact, the box office tells us that they prefer their films to be familiar and unoriginal.  That being said, credit is due David Robert Mitchell for It Follows.  Sure, it is a horror film, and on the surface, it appears to be rather typical.  Young people, sex, demons, and bad decisions flow freely here, like the many that have come before.  Call it an homage, ripoff, remake, or whatever works for you, but I’d rather call it like it is- a good, tense horror film.  It owes everything to prior films, yet deserves praise for how well it is made, and how earnest it is whilst presenting a tried and true premise.

Allow me to be cynical for a moment, and tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a young, white female named Jay (Monroe) from suburbia starts to fall for a guy (Weary) who may or may not be dangerous.  Well, he wears an earring, and he’s brooding, so I suppose he’s dangerous.  They have yet to consummate their romance, or so the film tells us, but one fateful night, they do.  It doesn’t turn out well for her.  Hugh (if that’s really his name) wants to show something to her, so in the middle of an awful, rundown lot of a rundown building in Detroit, he ties her to a wheelchair as something walks towards them.  He can see it, but can she?  If she can, it is proof that she’s now the prime target of a being/monster/demon.  It will walk in her direction, no matter how far, until she is dead- unless she passes it on my having intercourse with someone else.  Then the being/monster/demon will chase that person, and so on.  The film’s established rules for this being/monster/demon’s powers are hardly concrete, but we’ll get to that later.

So the plot is about as familiar as it gets for a horror film- a character has premarital sex, and as a result, they are doomed to die.  It Follows succeeds not because of this inevitable, typical horror setup, but rather because of the way it careens towards the inevitable, typical end.  Jay is not simply a helpless victim, Hugh is not a typical ne’er-do-well, and their friends are not only lining up to be hot lunches.  These are reasonably bright young people who are trying to outrun or outsmart an indestructible (it seems) villain.  Mitchell is not breaking any new ground with It Follows, but he does know how to consistently manufacture tension.

He also gives us some interesting parallels to the trauma these characters experience- whether he meant to or not.  Think about the horrific personification of sex in general.  How many of us have had the guilt-ridden “black cloud of sex” follow us around (nearly like an inescapable demon)?  Be it the way we were taught about it, the way our various religions forbid us from thinking about it, or perhaps an awkward or bad first experience- sex, as fantastic as it may be, is quite possibly the scariest monster of them all.  This is a film that carries this enormous burden of sex, and we feel the weight of it.

Also consider Mitchell’s use of the city of Detroit, as the group of friends often passes south of “8 Mile Road”, encountering all of the urban decay.  Consider the clear metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases, specifically AIDS, and how one moment of seeming innocence and bliss can literally haunt you to death.  Playing off our existing fears and building tension is what the film does best.  The being/monster/demon, whilst occasionally grotesque, is not what turns our stomach- rather, the probing of our mind and the fear it can create seems to be the target.

I did have reservations with the script’s penchant for changing the being/monster/demon’s powers at will.  The rules can be difficult to follow; it can change its’ visage to resemble anyone, including those known to the victim, which is convenient to throw off the audience.  We don’t know how it can do this, but only the true anal retentive viewer (like myself) cares why.  Also, it can apparently only walk, not run, directly toward its’ target, but in one particular scene, it pounces on a victim as if injected with puma blood.  In another scene, it can pick up inanimate objects and throw them.  If it touches you, you’ll die, but apparently it’s fine if it only grabs your hair.  I care about these only because I want to know why supernatural beings choose to do some things but not others.  Just like other horror films before it, why slam doors and stand in corners if you can kill your target?  I suppose that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, and ultimately it doesn’t keep the viewer from enjoying the film.

As I finish this review, I’m now clear that It Follows is one big tense metaphor wrapped in an homage for the modern audience.  If the film hadn’t been treated with such delicate care, it may have been easy to dismiss.  We’d simply throw it on the scrap heap with the latest exorcism film or Hellraiser entry.  Instead, Mitchell and the cast have created something that may not be original, but most certainly is memorable.  Some critics have gotten a bit out of hand with their praise for the film and its’ unconventional yet familiar score by Rich Vreeland (also known as ‘Disasterpeace’ apparently), calling both “game-changing” or “groundbreaking”.  The static-laden bass notes in the score certainly work, but are the closest things to original I heard from it, and the MIDI-inspired crescendos don’t call anything other that Carpenter’s Halloween score to mind.  Hyperbole aside, I can easily recommend the film to anyone interested in more than a simple slash and burn horror experience.  It has nothing new to offer, but the method of delivery is certainly different, fun, and worthy of our time.

Written By:

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.59.08

Josh Adams
Full Contributor


Ruben’s Perspective:

A love-letter to 80s horror with a creepy story about an STD that literally haunts and hunts its victims.

If I had to pick one genre of movies as my favorite, I’d rip in two and fight myself. One me would be for horror and the other would battle on the side of science fiction and the battle would be epic. Reminiscent of the time my weakened Chung-Li took out a full-powered Akuma controlled by … never mind, you had to be there. Point is that it’s definitely safe to say that I love horror, and when a truly good, well-crafted horror film comes along I like to heap a bit of praise on it.

IT FOLLOWS is one of those movies upon which my praise will be heaped. It’ll appear as though it’s a siege, but one backed by nothing but admiration. It Follows is the kind of horror film that understands the value of creating atmosphere and patiently setting things up for a satisfying payoff. The film also features something else that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in most horror — a fantastic score.

Films like THE CONJURING, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, or the first 45 minutes of THE STRANGERS, expertly take their time to establish a calm before the storm. While something like The Strangers or INSIDIOUS, and most mediocre horror devolves into something of a action movie, It Follows, like the fantastic The Conjuring, continues the slow-burn all the way until the end. Instead of leaving you feeling like all is right in the world, It Follows is the kind of horror that haunts you long after the film has faded to black. It Follows leaves you wondering about the people walking around you, the choices we’ve made in the past, and how those choices never truly go away. In fact, some choices are at the surface, only needing a moment to change and return to hunting you down again.

Music in horror is usually limited to sound effects bunched up in a rhythmic pattern. There is no real creation of feelings like dread, and instead the sound seeks to unnerve you with jolts of noise. Typically, by the end of most horror movies, viewers have become desensitized and the typically screechy, electronic, nails-on-a-chalk-board buzz and beats goes unheard. That’s a shame, because classic horror films (Psycho, Halloween, etc.) do so much more with the sound, using it to manipulate the audience for not only the next scare, but the grand scare. The soundtrack for It Follows is clearly inspired by 80s horror. It’s mostly made up of electronic effects too, but its use to build terror is done to create an overall atmosphere and control the levels of terror or calm during individual scenes.

As a fan of the genre, I thought It Follows was something old and something new meshed into something interesting. It’s a slasher film, but without any semblance of a standard slasher. It’s a slow-paced, horror film with several interesting layers to it. As you watch, keep in mind something from your past that you don’t want coming back. It Follows isn’t a visceral action horror movie, but more of a psychologically haunting suspense film that uses the past to freak you out in the present.

Written by:

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 19.02.58

Ruben R. Diaz
Freelance Contributor


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One Comment


    I really enjoyed this little film… A good, very good idea, yet an uneven rythm… and “it” ! I loved “it” ^^

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