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It Follows [AFI Fest 2014]
Other // Unrated // November 7, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Afi]
Horror films have been capturing what society fears since its inception. One can easily track a decade's genre flicks with the occurrences that affected people within a given time period. Slashers such as Halloween continue to play off of our fear of being stalked by a mysterious presence, and writer/director David Robert Mitchell's It Follows seeks to achieve a similar effect on audiences. Having only one other full-length feature to his name (The Myth of the American Sleepover), Mitchell proves that he can successfully craft a unique concept that will undeniably capture the attention of audiences around the world. However, a great film isn't determined solely by a strong idea, but how that concept is brought forth through various elements of the film. While I seem to be in the minority, It Follows doesn't think much past that initial intriguing idea.
After recently meeting Hugh (Jake Weary), 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) is finding life to be pretty good. However, things take a sinister turn for the worst after having a seemingly innocent sexual encounter. She soon realizes that she cannot escape visions that nobody else is able to see, as she constantly has the uneasy feeling that something or somebody is following her. If Jay hopes to survive this ordeal, she must team up with her group of friends to find a way to stop this entity from following her before it catches up to her.
Just as the film begins, we're introduced to what can surely be considered the most powerful scene in the entire feature. Emerging from a house in the suburbs, a young woman runs out from her house into the street, looking absolutely terrified of something that seems to be following her, but we see that nothing is behind her. This is a convincingly chilling introduction, as we're left wondering, what could possibly be following her that has her so terrified? Well, it's from this point that It Follows starts to go downhill. As we're introduced to Jay's group of friends, it doesn't take long to realize that they all fit within the genre cookie-cutter roles that we've become so tired of. As she continues to try and convince her friends of what she's experiencing, the visions continue to haunt her all day and night. It doesn't take long to discover that this entity can take on the form of people that the individual knows in order to get within their heads. From the first time that we see it from her perspective, it's quite creepy, as it slowly walks in her direction, following her every step. Mitchell proves to incorporate some creepy scenes with this, but unfortunately, he doesn't entirely utilize it to his advantage.
If you're hoping for building blocks of tension to be stacked progressively throughout the duration, then you're sure to be disappointed. The plot beats are pretty obvious from the get-go, and we're never very concerned about the well-being of Jay and her friends. Audiences aren't ever given a reason to care. When anybody does meet their demise, it's an incredibly frustrating experience. With the exception of one after-math, the deaths here are incredibly uninspired. We spend a great amount of the picture wondering what happens when it reaches them, but the answer proves to be quite a letdown. It has one note of symbolism that carries throughout the majority of the picture, in that this entity is passed along by having sex. This is clearly a metaphor for STDs. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell continues to hint at this, as the entity follows Jay in her journey to discovering how to relieve herself of this life-threatening curse.
It doesn't take long to realize that Mitchell isn't expecting audiences to take this film seriously, as he incorporates comedy throughout the running time. However, it's especially prevalent after it's realized that the entity is following Jay. An example of this is how our lead protagonist is not entirely sure whether or not a person walking towards her is actually that individual or not, making for a few genuinely funny moments that certainly pull us out of the frequent dark lulls that we endure through the majority of the picture. Once we reach the final act, Jay and her friends come up with a way to possibly get rid of it for good. Rather than bringing us to a tension-filled showdown, we're led to a predictable conclusion that doesn't have a single scary bone in its body. Rather, it feels incredibly forced, as the film scatters to find a way to conclude Jay's story. I understand the overall direction that Mitchell wanted to take the picture in, but the execution just isn't there.
The first scene mentioned previously is largely effective due to the visual atmosphere that Mitchell provides. He incorporates a genuinely eerie tone without the context of the suburbs by maintaining an excellent use of lighting. A large portion of It Follows is visually successful, especially as different creepy looking individuals slowly approach our protagonist with a blank stare that makes for an eerie faceless entity. Unfortunately, writer/director David Robert Mitchell doesn't have as steady of a hand when it comes to the audio, as he overwhelms us with a repetitive electronic score that ultimately begins to feel irritating, rather than scary. It pulls us out of the film, instead of creating a greater sense of immersion. There are some interesting special effects in the final act, but they aren't enough to make up for this picture's long list of issues.
Even despite all of the hype surrounding writer/director David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, it simply isn't as strong of a horror film as so many are making it out to be. With a strong premise and some brilliant uses of visual flair, this is a feature with great potential, but the execution is ultimately the film's downfall. It fails to make a scary concept actually scary, as it relies on underwhelming genre clichés that do the film no favors. Impactful horror films are becoming more difficult to find as time goes on, and unfortunately, this isn't one of the gems to add to the list. It Follows has a strong concept, but it definitely won't follow you out of the cinema. Skip it.
It Follows will be playing at AFI FEST 2014 presented by Audi on November 7 and November 8.