It’s that time of the year when I like to challenge myself and go see a film that I wouldn’t normally choose to see. Last year I surprised myself with the Indonesian martial arts/crime drama, THE RAID 2. This time around, my choice is the American, low budget (US$2 million) horror/thriller, IT FOLLOWS.
Jay is a college student in suburban Detroit where she lives with her parents and younger sister, Kelly. She recently started dating Hugh, a guy doesn’t know all too well but is willing to get to know better. And that’s her first mistake. After having sex with Hugh in the backseat of his vintage ’70s car, he knocks her out with chloroform and ties her to a chair in an abandoned factory. We think he’s going to do all sorts of nasty stuff to her but, no, he has tied her up so that he can have her undivided attention while he tells her that he’s just infected her with something that makes her the target of a bogeyman who will be relentless in pursuing her until he kills her. As long as Jay is the last one in this infectious link, her life is in danger. If she pays the “gift” forward, she’s in the clear… well, sort of. If the menacing demon kills the one she infected, he will turn his attention back to Jay.
Yes, this is a film about sexually transmitted zombies – zomborrhea – and even using a condom won’t save you from the dreaded disease. After Hugh literally dumps Jay on the street in front of her house, she decides that that she’s not going to go down easy… at least not as easy as she did with Hugh. With Kelly, their neighbour Greg, friend Yara, and their dorky guy-pal, Paul, they first track down Hugh to learn more about the disease and then concoct a plan to keep Jay safe from harm. Unfortunately, their first few attempts to protect Jay don’t work out too well as the bogeyman seems to appear out of nowhere. He/She/It also seems to be able to take the form of pretty much anyone and can only be seen by Jay.
Curiously (at least to me), critics are loving this film, probably because of its style rather than its substance. It’s purposely hard to pin down when the story is taking place. Not only are many of the cars vintage, so are the TVs, the Polaroids stuck on Jay’s bedroom mirror and even some of the clothes. Yet, there are mobile phones and a touchscreen e-book reader that looks like a woman’s compact. Also anachronous is the cinema (complete with a working Wurlitzer organ) where Jay and Hugh go to see the 1963 film, CHARADE. (I’m still trying to work out the connection between the two films. People aren’t who you think they are?)
This is director David Robert Mitchell’s second feature, the first being the 2010 coming-of-age film, THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER. (That film was also set in suburban Detroit.) With IT FOLLOWS, Mitchell pays homage to a number of notable horror/thriller/suspense films, including CARRIE, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and CAT PEOPLE (the 1942 version). More than any of these old classic chillers though, is the comparison to the John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN thanks to the unnervingly slow pace of the film and moody soundtrack by Disasterpiece.
Less grippingly scary than just plain foreboding, IT FOLLOWS is an interesting entry into the horror/thriller/suspense genre. I am curious to see what Mitchell does next.
Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 31:40.)
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