*Fair warning, this review will contain heavy spoilers, as it's fairly difficult to talk about this movie, or even just discuss the plot, without delving into the details.*
It's become very apparent over the last couple of years that Hollywood has run
pretty dry with original ideas, especially in the horror genre. We live in a world full of reboots, re-imaginings, remakes, cash-grab sequels, so on and so forth. So when a movie comes along that presents itself as an original idea, people seem to really take notice, especially in the horror genre. We represent probably the most passionate constituency in entertainment. We're on a constant search for that next gem that's going to grab our attention, that next movie that's going to capture our imagination and fill that machete-shaped hole in our heart. I'm elated to say that "It Follows" is that movie for 2015....so far, and undoubtedly the best argument for abstinence in the last 20 years.
The best of horror tends, nowadays, to come from the independent side of movie-making. Sure, studios are quick to crank out the next "Paranormal Activity", as long as they can get it out in theaters before Halloween and make a buck, but who remembers those? The best horror movies are those that stick with you, those that make an impact on your psyche, those that make you think while you're trying to go to sleep. I struggle when I try to really classify this movie. My gut reaction is to file it under "slasher", even though there isn't much slashing at all. But it's as much a slasher as, say, the original 'Halloween'. Director David Robert Mitchell, a shining star in the world of today's horror, clearly went to the John Carpenter Film School. He takes the approach that visually, less is more. Something doesn't have to be bloody, abhorrent, and in your face to be scary. All of his films thus far, including the underrated "You're Next" and one of my favorite movies of the last year, "The Guest", have showed the utmost restraint and subtlety in displaying tension. Sometimes the boogeyman standing behind a bush, at the edge of a very long, drawn out camera shot is way more terrifying than an axe-wielding maniac on the loose. The most effective jump-out-of-your-seat moments in this film are as simple as someone just walking down a hallway in the middle of the frame, or turning a corner, or staring into a mirror. Of course, movie fans know the other piece of the John Carpenter puzzle is the music. A John Carpenter score is so instantly recognizable, and while this obviously isn't one of his, it's just as much an instant classic. Done by a guy who credits himself as "Disasterpeace", the musical score is just as good as the movie itself. It's as if it was encased in an 80's time capsule, and was recently discovered for our enjoyment. Imagine if Trent Reznor had been around to collaborate with Carpenter on the 'Halloween' score, and that will give you an idea of the noise. That 80's synth never sounded so good.
So I'm 2 paragraphs in and haven't even talked about the plot of the movie. It's slasher-esque, but without the slasher part, right? Yes and no. Short version is this is a tension filled, suspense slasher where the killer is a metaphor for things like teenage sex, abstinence, teen pregnancy, and STD's. Maika Monroe plays Jay, a seemingly normal high schooler living in the suburbs of Detroit, in a very non-descript neighborhood, in a very non-descript time period. She goes on a date with a guy that she's really into, but as soon as they're on the date, things start to get weird, for him at least. They play a guessing game and he sees someone that she apparently can't. Is he just playing a trick, or being serious? On their next date, it becomes clear that things are going to turn physical for them very quickly, so they partake in some sexual activity, as all teens in horror MUST do. There are a couple of twists and turns that stem from this situation which I won't spoil, but after they do the deed, he drops the bomb on her: in having sex, he has passed "it" onto her. He explains the tropes to her, that "it" will, eh, follow her. Relentlessly. It won't stop. It will take on the form of a person, usually someone you love or care for. There's only one of "it", and "it" is slow, but not stupid, and you are the only one that can see it. I think that covers all the bases. Oh, and you can pass it on to someone else by having sex with them. Catch is, if "it" kills that person, it reverts back to you, the one that gave it to them, originally, and back on down the line, forever and ever.
The movie here on out is a series of chase scenes, where Jay, her sister, and a few of their friends, are constantly being hunted down by It. That's where the comparison to the litany of slashers springs to mind, because you can very easily replace It with Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and it mostly remains the same movie. But it's the original twists and spins that turn the genre on its ear. Imagine if in "Halloween", Laurie Strode was the only person who could've seen Michael Myers. It would've been a totally different take on it. As Jay and her friends are being hunted, how do you protect yourself from something you don't see, much less something that can't even be stopped even if you could see it? A bullet to the head drops it for a couple of seconds, and then it continues the chase. One of the more emotional struggles of the movie is Jay's fight with herself as far as what she should do. Common sense tells her to have sex with someone, pass it on to them, and let it be their problem. But there's the struggle. One, she's a very kind hearted, loving person and doesn't want to put it off onto anyone else, and two, she realizes that no matter how far it gets passed, it's eventually going to come back after her. She obviously wants to fight and live, but she knows she can't win.
My biggest gripe with the movie is the finale. I think they were put into a corner
with how they brought about an end. Do they do something generic and find a magical way to end the curse? Do they just show the dire consequences of promiscuity and have our main character die a horrible death? Our group concocts some plan that I still don't fully understand where they want to draw It to a swimming pool, and they surround the pool with all kinds of equipment that is electrical, like televisions and blow dryers. Maybe I can't see the forest for the trees here, but I assume the plan was the electrocute It in the pool. Obviously, that's a pretty ridiculous and contrived idea that backfires immediately on them. If It survived a few gunshots to the head, why would electricity kill it? Having watched the scene, I almost feel as if there was something I missed, or maybe something that was cut. The pool was nothing more than a MacGuffin. There's no real reason or talk about their plan, it's just "hey, lets go to the pool, hopefully it'll come after us!". It feels as if there should've been a scene where someone knows what's going on, and explained to them how to defeat It. Something like from "Drag Me to Hell". And again, the plan goes awry. While this is the crescendo of the film, there's still a little more that happens in the remaining moments, which I won't spoil. But you know those movies you watch that seemingly just cut off at the end with no resolution and your natural reaction is to say "WHAAAATTT??"? (I'm looking at you 'No Country For Old Men'!!) But I seriously didn't mind it in the context this time, though. It's a pretty forgone conclusion of what would happen. Just remember that these kids know they will be on the run for the rest of their days from this thing.
In closing, I'm a huge fan of this movie. When I'd heard the first bit of word of mouth in the last few months, there was an assumption that this movie was just going to be amazing, a home run. People on podcasts and movie sites had seen it on the indie or horror festival circuit and just couldn't praise it enough for it's originality and creativity and all but claimed it as revolutionary. It's way too early to throw around words such as "modern day classic" or such, but again, in a world of "Zombeavers" and "Wolfcop", it's absolutely got a good shot.