Directed and written by David Robert Mitchell
It seems a lot of people jumped on the hype train, as apparently this film is killing in the US box office. Thankfully (and for me, unexpectedly) this means it has been released down under and not too long after the US either, which is a nice change of pace. News obviously made its way across the sea, as the theatre was packed. But It Follows is not a movie for packed cinemas. This is not a movie for the type of person who watches one movie every two months. I have nothing against people who don’t love film like I do of course, but it is obvious early on that this is not a film made for the masses. One element of the movie that was lost on most of the crowd was the way in which it built up tension. They didn’t seem to understand the concept of something banal suddenly turning into something insane to maximise the impact. “Stop writing like such a pretentious twit” I can hear myself saying. Okay, fair enough, but let me quickly let you know why I came out with this attitude.
The crowd had obviously come in with expectations. What those were exactly, I’m not sure. Were they expecting gore and blood? Who knows, but it was a packed house on opening night and I was down in the fourth row from the screen. And even from the front of the theater, I could quite literally hear intentionally loud ‘sighs’ during the quieter parts of the film. In fact, during every quiet part of the film. Now I have heard talking and whispering before, giggling, phones ringing… but intentionally letting the entire theater know that you are bored and are not getting the movie at all? I’m not quite sure what sort of person acts like that, but it seemed as infectious as the movie’s basic plot device- half the crowd ‘sighed’ their way through the film.
Despite this tale of terror, I couldn’t hear them for the most part as the sound track is consistently there for most of the movie’s runtime. Not only is it there, it is done by the same outfit who created the retro-styled OST that came with The Guest from last year. This time around they stick with the retro-synth sounds, but here it is much, much more abrasive, intended to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible, which in a way reminded me of the scathing score of Suspiria. This theme continues into the film – it is constantly looking to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible.
Some scenes seem endless with no dialogue, but the camerawork is done so well here that I am going to treat it as a character. He is never seen, but the way the camera slowly, achingly spins around, looking, looking…. and then stops and begins to slowly zoom in on what it wants you to see, it constantly feels like you are watching this film through the eyes of someone unnamed and unseen. I’ve never seen such a distinct visual style from a young director before! This same technique is often used to show us the surroundings, and then a close up of Jay’s face as she takes in those surroundings. In fact he probably went a little overboard with the facial close-ups, but it is effective in creating psychological tension; as we see her reactions we are forced to think, what is she thinking, what is she looking at? What is she seeing that we can’t?
This is a movie you must see to believe when it comes to this fluid camerawork. Words cannot do this film justice. In fact, if using the OST to accompany it, the camerawork is so good and hypnotic that this could screen as a silent film and perhaps be even more effective. I might try just that when the DVD comes out.
Unfortunately, I say this for a reason. The script is the only weak point of this film; it isn’t horrid, but it isn’t much to shout home about either. A lot of the conversations are teen-based, talk of boyfriends and whatnot. Unfortunately this type of script feels out of sync with the rest of the tone and atmosphere of the movie, sounding forced and filled with stereotypes. If it was better written it could have added to the formula I wrote about earlier, increasing that juxtaposition between the calm and the no-so-calm scenes. And perhaps it does achieve this to an extent. But no character says anything interesting apart from what is happening in the narrative, and none of the characters seem to possess a human personality of any sort. Again, perhaps intentional, but it comes off as bad writing and bad acting. Never before have I thought a film would be better as a silent film, that in itself says a lot, to me at least. Even during the juicy scenes, the urgency in their voices is lacking for the most part, something is missing almost every time they open their mouths. I’m not sure if it is the acting or the writing, as everywhere else, this is a spectacular film, from the narrative to the stunning camerawork to that incredibly abrasive OST.
Do yourself a favour and don’t read too much about the plot going in. I didn’t, and think I can still feel my arm aching from gripping the armrest so hard. The tension, combined with the truly disturbing narrative, makes for one memorable experience. I had chills running up my spine constantly, goosebumps everywhere. Thankfully the jump-scares are sparse – I counted two. This is a legitimately scary, unsettling, psychosexual horror film with atmosphere thicker than blood, all within a beautifully framed and shot movie. I haven’t been so creeped out by a movie since I first saw The Shining, and can only sing similar praise about three other films. This is a film that will genuinely repulse you, intentionally. This is a director that I am keeping an eye on.
See it now, don’t be a wimp!
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