“For nineteen-year-old Jay, Autumn should be about school, boys and week-ends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her friends must find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind”.
Writer/Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Jay Height (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend (a guy who’s, unbeknownst to her, being followed by a dark and murderous spirit after he had a one night stand with a girl who was also being followed). Said boyfriend passes the curse on by having sex with Jay and then advises her to do the same to somebody else. Which she then decides is actually a good idea and does so, with one of her friends, and three guys on a boat. Nice people. Jay manages to enlist her friends (a collection of sub Scooby Doo types) that take everything she says at face value, unquestioningly believing and helping her, never once suggesting that maybe she’s in shock and should seek psychiatric help. Needless to say the spirit that follows her works at walking pace, but still manages to track Jay down pretty quickly, no matter how far she drives away.
“It Follows” is nicely shot, with a good pace, decent enough performances considering how thinly or non-written most of the characters are, but virtually no scares at all. It did have a hype of marketing that made people think it really is scary. It’s not. It starts well, but then just becomes a film going nowhere.
It’s the message, if you can call it that, that’s the real puzzle.
Remember “Forrest Gump”, that crowd pleasing story in which life’s a box of chocolates, but you never know what you’re going to get? Well, you do know, actually. If you do the right thing, take the hits, go fight in a war that was a disaster, you get to meet Presidents and other cool people and win the love of everybody. Or, if you’re the woman and you protest said war, do drugs, hang out with Rock types and sleep around, you die of something that is probably AIDs. Or what about another Oscar winner: “Brokeback Mountain”? Remember that? It’s the one where two cowboys have it away. One is straight but a bit confused. The other is gay. The confused one eventually goes back to his white bread wife or girlfriend or whatever she was. The gay one gets beaten to death by rednecks. So, that’s OK. It all works out in the end, if you’re a right wing conservative type.
In “It Follows” we have a female character (Jay, so-so played in a poorly written character by Maika Monroe) that we’re supposed to care about. Initially we do, as she’s subjected to having a curse dumped on her by a guy who’s trying to pass it on after a one-night stand with a girl in a bar. Jay doesn’t actually know the guy that well, not even knowing where he lives or what his real name is. So, is the message here: she gets what she deserves? Have a one-night stand and you’re basically FFL? Or, if you have a problem, get rid of it by passing it on to somebody else, even if it is your best friends? Or: generation X and Y are such a bunch of selfish bastards that they’ll quite happily wreck your life just to absolve themselves of their own problems? Or is this reading too much into a film that isn’t as clever or deep as it thinks it is?
It’s difficult to care for characters with which we have no sympathy. Jay gets told that the way to escape is to pass on the curse to somebody else, which she does without considering the implications. Basically she doesn’t care. So, why should we? In the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, friends tried to help because Nancy was a nice girl and was worth helping. In “It Follows”, Jay just seems like nothing, a one-dimensional character that’s happy to steal a car and leave her friends at the beach potentially to face death at the hands of the evil spirit. Nice. Thanks, Jay. We must help you out again sometime. When Greg (a friend she sleeps with) is killed by the spirit, there’s no real sense that Jay actually cares that much. In fact, none of the friends seem that upset. Is this bad acting, bad writing, or are we not supposed to care either? Most of all it’s just not scary. Horror sound cues just can’t hide lazy work.
Massively overhyped, overrated by critics, but many audience members have watched “It Follows” and have commented that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Blessed be audiences that aren’t buying the marketing departments bull any more.
This review originally appeared on Haddonfield Horror: