Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Review: It Follows

World of Blackout Film Review

It Follows Poster

It Follows (SPOILERS)
Cert: 15 / 100 mins / Dir. David Robert Mitchell / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Oh, David Robert Mitchell, did you really write and direct a 100-minute screenplay with the sole intention of spending six weeks on-set with Maika Monroe in her pants? Because you certainly didn't do it to leave a coherent, lasting impression on the horror-genre, that's for sure.

It's not that It Follows is a badly made film (quite the opposite). As an experiment in creating palpable tension with a compact cast and minimal visual effects-work, it's a notable success. My problem is that it's just not scary and let's be honest, a horror-flick has that one brief to fulfil before all others. And I didn't feel scared largely because the threat isn't explained properly.
Outlined, yes.
Shown, yes.
Explored, tested, deconstructed? No*1.

The following-ghoul (read: plot mechanics) is (are) wilfully inconsistent throughout (spoilers, highlight-to-read: The injuries sustained by the corpse on the beach in the opening strand don't fit with Greg's demise in the bedroom; although the film explains that the follower's appearance can change (or not), some apparitions are shown multiple times (the tall chap) for no apparent reason; are the apparitions previous victims, projections of the followee's guilt, randomly generated 'stranger' faces, all of these or none of these?; the origin of the curse itself isn't even alluded to, never mind explored; the follower's stalk/attack pattern seems largely arbitrary (to the point where the ghoul would rather stand motionless on the top of your house than find a way inside, apparently); and last but by no means least, the operational parameters of the following-curse are clearly self-defeating - as the follower jumps back down the same chain after consuming its victim, it's going to be back to patient-zero in no time at all. Shit-scared people don't make for great shags, so the curse is limited to how far it can realistically spread in its own timeframe. You can't pass the curse on in secret, otherwise the follower will be back to you within a day (see Paul and the prostitute at the end of the film), and even when your intended-proxy is informed in a post-coital wheelchair, you still don't stop seeing the follower so presumably it will still try and kill you? Oh, and the 'invisible attack' at the beach is just comical, frankly. And if you've already demonstrated that shooting the ghoul won't work (on the beach), what good is electrocution going to do?

What also didn't help matters (yes, after all that) is that I couldn't work out when the film is supposed to be set (it's a thing to me, I assure you). The young cast are seen watching a variety of old movies on 3:4 ratio CRT televisions (some colour models, some b&w). There seem to be no cellphones/mobiles, and no-one looks up the origins or occurrences of the curse online, but then Yara appears to use a finger-swiping shell-shaped ebook-reader of some description, leading me to believe that this isn't set in the pre-internet age after all.

Now despite all my moaning, I can't be too harsh on the film, as it's certainly more focused than the glut of 'manky old lady in the cellar' filmmaking we're still suffering through, and to Mitchell's credit, he goes light on the quiet-quiet-LOUD routine (although it's still there a bit). I suspect that I am indeed missing something, somewhere.

In terms of raw tension, It Follows is technically effective, but in the same way that a hammer can only ever be technically effective at being a hammer; it's never going to redefine what being a hammer is, because that's not why it was made. For a trashy supernatural teen-horror, the film delivers. But it delivers something you remember you got sick of watching many moons ago...

With the contagion-by-sex motif and a synth-heavy soundtrack*2, It Follows is clearly a love-letter to the cinema of John Carpenter. All well and good, but we can't pretend that much of JC's work from the 1980s stands up today without the crutch of affectionate nostalgia.

The only thing the film has left me scared of is having sex with teenagers. Although I think that's a thing which most 41yr-old men in the 21st century are inherently terrified of anyway…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Evidently not, although I admit I'm in a minority here.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Rental, tops.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
In Monroe's case, I don't think so, no.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I have no idea.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
No; feel free to lecture me about this over a pint.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There only bloody IS, yes! Although it features in an old movie that the characters are watching on TV. Fuck it, I'm still counting it.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, Paul is played by Keir Gilchrist, who provided voice-work for the Valentine's Day In Quahog episode of Family Guy, which also starred Mr Seth Green; the brains and brawn behind Star Wars: Detours and the voice of droid Todo 360 in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (that FG episode also starred Dee Bradley Baker, who voices the entire clone army in SW:TCW).

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 "Ooh, are you one of those people who needs your films explained to you?" Not necessarily, but it'd be nice if it seemed like the writer had a clue what what going on instead of filming a first-draft screenplay.
*2 Composer Rich 'Disasterpiece' Vreeland is evidently going for 'stark and moody', but ends up sounding like Vangelis trapped in a broom-cupboard with a Bontempi.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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