AFI Fest 2014: IT FOLLOWS Review

     November 11, 2014

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An unavoidable sense of dread powers David Robert Mitchell’s remarkable sophomore feature It Follows.  A careful deconstruction of the teen slasher genre as well as a powerful allegory to the fear of sexual disease, of aging, of dying and most of all – the absolute powerlessness to stop it, It Follows is the best kind of horror: the one less concerned with the monster hunting you but more so with the cognizant knowledge that it’s out there somewhere lurking.  It’s ostensibly a horror film about waiting – and how people pass the time until the boogeyman claims them.  It’s terrifying because there are no answers or solutions, no spells or third-act heroes, no way to defeat the monster, no exit… But most surprisingly of all – for a movie about the hopelessness of living and the pains of consciousness, it’s never morose or nihilistic.  In fact – the opposite is true.  Hit the jump, for more.

Newfound genre stalwart Maika Monroe (The Guest) stars as Jay, a teenager in the twilight of her adolescence.  She dates the much older Hugh (Jake Weary) and one night the two have sex in his beat up car.  Afterwards Hugh drugs Jay, ties her up to a wheelchair, apologizes and tells her that he’s passed something onto her – an entity of some sort that will follow Jay around until it touches and kills her.  The only way Jay can rid herself of the entity is to sleep with someone else thereby passing the entity/creature/spirit on – pretty much the “Ringu of STDs.  It’s worth noting the guise the entity takes is more often than not that of sexual predator – be it a naked woman or a nude man or pervert next-door-neighbor.  That the film culminates in a fulfillment of Freud’s ‘Electra Complex’ only serves as proof of the most horrific outcome imaginable.  Sex and violence have always been intimately entwined in horror.  The weapon of violence – the machete, the axe, the kitchen knife – here replaced by the metaphor itself: sex the literal weapon of It Follows.

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Much like Carpenter’s archetypical slasher Halloween, there’s a focus on suburbia – a seemingly ideal picture-perfect haven – intruded penetrated by an outside foreign force.  It Follows understands that the most terrifying thing about Halloween isn’t some psycho stabbing a bunch of teenagers but the fact that all the violence happens in the victim’s very own homes.  There are no safe places, the dark alley and your own bedroom interchangeable.  It Follows takes that one-step further – the bubble of suburbia revealed to be just that: an actual bubble surrounded by poverty stricken, derelict buildings and boarded up homes.  That the horror has finally encroached upon the good ol’ suburbs revealed not to be an anomaly but an inevitability.

It Follows is really fucking smart – smart in the ways it alludes to what’s come before, smart in its playful tinkering of horror genre tropes.  In a lesser film, Jay’s motley group of nubile teenage friends would be cannon fodder until the conventional ‘final girl’ confrontation – but here: they’re a source of support and power, the ‘final girl’ replaced by the ‘final group’.

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The outcome of It Follows is never in question – and that’s what’s inherently terrifying about it: the rote predictability of death and the futility to rage against the inevitable the truly scary undercurrent of the picture.  And yet somehow there’s nothing at all nihilistic about the film.  It doesn’t languish in the morose – instead tackling it head on and in the end… well, it’s best just to see for yourself.  It Follows is essential horror of the highest caliber, the type that lingers with you well afterwards – just as its title would suggest.

Rating: A

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