The great thing about being a film critic is that you can see a great film before the inevitable hype sets in with a nearly unbiased perspective. The problem with being an unlicensed film critic (do critics get licenses?) is that you see films whenever you get a chance, preferably as soon as they are first released in theaters.
So that is the difficulty with It Follows, which has been touted as the greatest thing for the horror genre since Alfred Hitchcock directed a film about a haunted loaf of sliced bread. It Follows is special in many ways, and I am rooting for it as a little indie that could. At times, it is a great throwback to horror classics. Unfortunately, this is exactly what holds it back.
It Follows is something of a rarity in today’s crowded field of low budget horror films: there are no limbs being torn off the bone, and not even a warning that all the events that we are about to witness were captured on somebody’s flip camera and found by a government agency. It Follows is not a gimmick horror film, and that is a relief. Hell, it isn’t even about teenagers being killed off one-by-one in increasingly gruesome ways.
After a promising date gone wrong, Kelly (Lili Sepe) is infected by a mysterious supernatural force that she must get rid of by passing on to somebody else. It is hard to get rid of something that can’t die, and even harder when the only way to get rid of it involves getting laid.
The best compliment I could bestow on It Follows is how well made it is. Shot on a budget of about $2 million, It Follows looks like it cost ten times that amount to make. This is a film that requires a few CGI tricks so the fact that it looks this good gives me a lot of hope for the future of these tiny devices we carry around with us. The spectacular climax, which all I’ll say about it is that it takes place in a pool, involves action that is frightening even though we are meant not to see it.
And let’s not forget the score, which is what actually makes It Follows even remotely scary. Its like techno version of Psycho. This is the kind of music that doesn’t just leave your head. Every emotion I have towards the film is tied towards the music. Obviously, music is used in a film to guide the viewer’s emotions, and the best horror films seem to use their score to their fullest potential. I will definitely be listening to this over and over again in order to freak myself out in the middle of a workday.
As much as I just described a bunch of good things, these last two paragraphs describe one of my main beefs with It Follows. Its a collection of great stylistic elements, confused as to what substance is. Its a collection of great scenes as opposed to a cohesive whole. During down time, you would hope a horror film is just revving up tension. But at times, It Follows kind of stalls, especially bogged down by a lot of half-committed performances.
I want to like It Follows more than I did, and that is not just because I feel like I should. But in the end, the best kind of horror movies are really about something else below the surface, and I can’t quite get a grip of it here. Maybe I am dumb, or maybe I have just seen enough indie movies where pools are used as a metaphor for redemption. It Follows wants to be Jaws, and it also wants to be Halloween, but it doesn’t have a shark, nor a Michael Myers.
But damn, does this film look good. I don’t know if I’ll ever watch It Follows again, but I will look at it when one of those Masterful Shots Twitter accounts posts a bunch of screenshots from it.