Answer: The creepy and, at times, scary movie It Follows by director David Robert Mitchell.
My favorite film review website, The AVClub, gives It Follows a rare score of ‘A’. You might ask…is it really that good?
Well… it’s complicated.
The conceit of the movie is that if you sleep with the wrong person, a nameless and relentless monster will come after you until you’re dead. In essence, a sexually transmitted curse. There are plenty of nasty sexually transmitted problems, and this curse is one of the worst.
The hero of our movie, Jay Height (played brilliantly by Maika Monroe), sleeps with her handsome, mysterious paramour, unwittingly setting the shape shifting monster after her. Hugh (Jake Weary) explains the rules to Jay while she is tied immobile to a wheelchair while they wait for the monster to arrive.
- Only the afflicted can see the monster.
- It can take the form of anybody.
- It follows its victim at a slow walk until it takes her/his life.
- The victim can release his/herself from the curse by passing it sexually to another person.
It is like director David Robert Mitchell took what is most compelling about 80s slasher flicks such as Friday the 13th and Halloween–that our hero is dealing with a seemingly unstoppable supernatural force–and adds a mix of realism, hopelessness, and mystery.
I would venture to appraise the first half of It Follows as one of the smartest and undeniably spellbinding works of cinema horror since The Silence of the Lambs. It opens with a terrifying prologue and gains momentum as we become more horrified as more of the mystery is revealed. It is rare that the tension is heightened as we learn more about a film monster, but It Follows pulls it off.
The director doesn’t only bait the viewers with Jay’s curse. He peppers the film with numerous other tension builders that bubble just under the surface. Jay’s best friend Paul comes across as passive and weak, but the crush he harbors on a non-responsive Jay fuels a vindictive desire that you can read in his long gazes and mumbled comments that he wants to take what he desires, leaving us worrying “Is he? Oh god, I hope he doesn’t!” The film is set in a nebulous time period. The 80s, 90s, and 2000s are all intermixed, not allowing the viewer to become comfortable with the setting. A character named Yara is part of Jay’s gang, but her primary role is that of a Shakespearean narrator, her philosophizing creating a nice sense of perspective and unease.
Mitchell pulls off a handful of film techniques that are memorable. Perhaps the best is set in the kids’ high school. The camera spins in a steady 360 degree fashion. Through the windows, you can see the monster walking through a field toward the school. It circuit you can see the monster coming closer. You’ll be screaming for Jay to look out the window and run!
That the monster can change into anyone makes everyone Jay sees a potential danger. Once the monster appeared as an elderly woman banging on Jay’s door. Once the door is opened by a friend (remember, Jay can only see the apparition), the monster is now a seven-foot-tall man (the sudden change scared the piss out of me) who lumbers in after her. Another instance of the apparition appearing as her dead father while standing naked on top of her house is terrifying and unsettling.
All this, and I’ve not mentioned the film as a metaphor dealing with the loss of innocence and our pathways to adulthood.
Oddly, the climax is what let’s the film down. The kids embark on an unbelievable and nonsensical plan to capture and kill the monster. It involves an abandoned (but impossibly well-maintained YMCA pool past 8 Mile Road in Detroit), using Jay as bait. I literally tossed my remote across the couch and said “Oh, come on. This is stupid. You are RUINING THE MOVIE!”
Then the movie saves face with a fantastic denouement and epilogue.
So, to answer the complicated question…is this an ‘A’ movie? No, it is not.
Is it a film worthy of your time and evaluation? Absolutely. And please don’t let the haters tell you otherwise because they are wrong.
(Even the damn soundtrack is awesome!)