Saturday, April 4, 2015

Eight Reasons To Go See IT FOLLOWS As Quickly As You Can

Every one in the horror community - and plenty outside that ring of fire - has been running to see this first-rate fright flick, and with good reason.  IT FOLLOWS is a delectable slice of horror heaven that forces us to re-examine old tropes in a dazzling new light.  It sets itself apart by bringing the fear up close and personal, relentlessly pursuing us until it catches up and then....

Well, I don't want to give too much away if there are folks out there that haven't seen this gem yet.  Suffice it to say though, that you'd better run to see this one on the big screen while you can.  It made such an impression on me that I thought about it for days to come and even had trouble sleeping those first few nights afterward.  That's a horror fan's dream!

I didn't want to do a straight-out review, as you can get dozens of them just by using Google.  So I came up with eight reasons to go check this outstanding breakout entry in genre fare.  I haven't talked to anyone who has given it two or even one thumb down, so I think that is a pretty good indicator that we're dealing with a winner here.

1) Dread.  There is an overwhelming sense of dread within the entire scope of this brilliant little film. Once you realize the straightforward plot - that having sex passes a curse in which a shape-shifting entity pursues you until it kills you - you are in it for the long run.  From the opening sequence through the last reel, this movie haunts you.  There is no other way to explain the undeniable sense of forboding doom hovering over every moment of David Robert Mitchell’s low-budget gift to horror fans the world over. Creepy atmosphere lurks around every dim-lit corner of every darkened street, abandoned building and empty playground, bringing with it that delicious feeling that makes the hair raise on your arms and that nervous, unyielding urge to look over your shoulder.  I've not had that feeling in many long years, so to have me itching for daylight and practically jogging out of the theater is a blessing of the highest order.

2) Score.  Amazing just doesn't cover it. Disasterpeace, a.k.a. Rich Vreeland, has created one of the best, original movie scores in recent history with his pulsating, driving beats, screaming synth and relentless percussion. It truly feels like someone is following you throughout the course of the film.  Without this score, the movie would not have been anywhere near as effective.  Let's not forget how important music can be in a film.  Jaws, anyone?  Halloween? Suspiria?  Disasterpeace has written a new classic - synth-driven perfection if I may be so bold.  People will be talking about this one for years to come.
(I do have to share a link to an interview with Vreeland by my friend James Gracey for the Paracinema website. Go here to read all about Disasterpeace and this marvelous score.)

3) Maika.  I first saw Ms. Monroe in the excellent 2014 thriller The Guest.  Horror circles are calling her the newest "scream queen", and we should be so lucky.  With a passionate performance that runs rings around what anyone else is doing these days, Monroe has a bright future ahead of her no matter what genre she chooses to grace with her acting prowess.  She is so believable, so real, that she feels like your best friend who's got herself in a jam and you'd pretty much do anything to help her out.  While she is equally as good when acting with others, I think the moments she has alone on screen are really her forte.  Just watching her get ready for her ill-fated date is a pleasure, as is when she sits alone on a swing set fearful of her pursuer....waiting for them to show themselves.

4) Throwback. Besides the intense synth score, there is much that hearkens back to the great horror films of the 80's.  Did you see the outstanding poster made for the film?  While we are never actually given the time period in which the film takes place, there is an obvious lack of modern technology (as in the rotary dial phone hanging on the wall) that seems to scream late 80's. It's a great choice by Mitchell, and works like a charm. The feeling of being alone is much more palpable here, when you can't Google to find out just who your boyfriend is, or no cell phone to call for help in the direst of straits. Like House of the Devil before it, the return to the 80's makes us feel so much more vulnerable and insecure.

5)  Detroit.  This once-vibrant city is a character all its own, crippled with decay and looking every bit the abandoned, derelict piece of Americana that we have watched fall into ruin over the course of the last half-century.  While Jay lives on a tree-lined street in suburbia, the desolate landscape of abandoned houses and factories lie just outside the realm of  family-centered, residential areas. Miles and miles of creepy, fallen-down homes just add to the nightmarish feeling of the ominous surroundings.   It plays such a strong role here that if I were just to sit in a darkened theater watching footage of the fallen-down, forsaken remains of these parts of the motor city, I'd be equally as terrified without having a separate plot to worry about.

6) Relentless.  There's not much scarier that having something following you, always at your back or lurking behind you in the shadows.  Amp that up x 100 and you have the never-ending pursuit that is "IT".  When Jay lands a curse after a night of lovin' with her boyfriend, he explains that he has passed along something. Something that will follow her, without reason or remorse, without explanation or end.  But the kicker is this: no one else can see this person, this shape-shifter if you will, that tirelessly and fiercely pursues the victim until their inevitable death. They WILL. NOT. STOP.  Jay is baffled, of course, until she realizes what her boyfriend has told her is the truth.  She sees the presence in different human forms - an old woman in a hospital gown, a tall creepy man, a young disheveled girl - all just simply walking towards her....not running.  Just walking, similar to Michael Myers stalking his victims in Halloween. It's creepy as hell and you're gonna love it.

7) Sex.  Horror and sex go together like peanut butter and jelly. I'm guessing by now all genre fans are aware that it is a cardinal sin to have sex in a horror film. And most would think there isn't much more you can do with that old trope. But somehow,  IT FOLLOWS seems to take an overused plot device and breathe new life into it.  Jay's boyfriend does admit to her after their rendezvous that whomever or whatever is following her will stop - if she passes it on to another person through sex.  Which leaves Jay with the conundrum of either having random sex or, let's face it: death. Never has fornication been so FINAL.

8) Cinematography.  Wide camera angles and long shots of darkened streets and dilapidated houses and equally light college campuses and summer homes bring the terror of Jay's horrible situation into crystal-clear focus.  While there are one or maybe two jump scares within the film, most of the terror we experience comes in the form of visual atmosphere. The look of IT FOLLOWS is simply put, beautiful.  As we watch the entity walk purposely towards its prey, the camera brings it in and out of focus, to show us the anxiety and then utter panic on the victim's face.  Regardless of day or night, the supernatural force seeks to harm, and continues its never-ending pace towards its ultimate goal - the death of its intended victim.  As we watch neighbors in the streets, going about their daily routine, we are subjected to the normal existence in which terror injects itself.  The camera subjects us to both life and in equal parts death.  While there is very little blood in the film, the cinematographer takes the task very seriously, pouring it on when necessary and holding back when we don't need to see any gore on screen.  I can't say enough about the look, and likewise the feel, of the film.

In closing, I can't recall a film in recent years that had me shivering at the theater, shuddering in the car on the way home, trembling in bed later that night and yet singing its praises for days afterward.

 IT FOLLOWS is a unique, sublime film that will get under your skin the moment it starts. I don't say this often, but this one is highly recommended!