Directed and written by David Robert Mitchell
Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe
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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I think the characters were written perhaps a bit more poorly than the story was written, that I can agree on. But overall I think these characters were kind of slim because they belonged to a rather financially depressed walk of life. They weren’t kids brimming with life, and they could only focus on so many things. I totally get where they seemed not that great, but I think it actually added to the “thicker than blood” atmosphere (loved your description there, btw).
It Follows will definitely not work for everyone (when it was over here, I heard a lot of people afterwards saying how dumb it was.) I couldn’t have had a more opposite reaction personally! Great review dude. Really enjoyed it.
Thanks mate 🙂 Yeah I kinda saw that there was a constant theme in the lack of personalities across all the characters. Only the first male at the start seemed to possess any urgency at all. Perhaps he started it! Arrghh!!
I reeeeally hope they stick with that ending and don’t release a goddamn sequel. This director has an EXTREMELY distinct visual and writing style. A psychosexual horror film?? Man I’d expecting something like that to come from France! I hope he moves onto another project.
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Great review. I personally loved this film as well but my husband and best friend, who I saw it with, hated it! The OST was too jarring for them and kept taking them out of the movie. They also found it long, drawn out and didn’t feel the tension like I did. It’s definitely one of those movies where you either love it or hate it. I found your opinion about the camera bring it’s own, unseen character very interesting and I’d like to rewatch the movie with this idea in mind. Very insightful of you.
Again, great review! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the kind words! I love photography so I naturally I’m always noticing the cinematography, especially when it is this distinct. I’ve never seen anything like it, the camera almost directs your attention towards certain things.
Re- the OST I went and bought it. Amazing stuff. I’m gonna write about it tomorrow hopefully, I love heavy metal so an abrasive OST is riiight up my alley!
thanks for reading 🙂
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I look forward to reading that post!
I’ve been telling other bloggers who reviewed this that I’d rent this one, tho usually I’m not a horror fan at all. I like that it’s a bit more of a mystery/suspense instead of gratuitous blood & gore.
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Well to me, gore/bloody films aren’t horror. They just aren’t. That crap is a different genre as far as I am concerned.
Real horror films don’t come around very often anymore, and this creepy, creepy tale is all residing in a beautifully made film, which makes the experience so much better.
Repulsion, The Exorcist, The Shining. Before this movie, they were the only movies that legit made my skin crawl. If you aren’t a horror fan you might not like this one as it is incredibly unsettling. But its more along the lines of those movies above… psychological horror is what i like to call them. The only type of movies that genuinly repulse me.
Not being a horror fan, I’d love to hear your perspective on it Ruth!
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I actually liked the teens in this one, as I was glad the writer didn’t make them immature and obnoxious. They were simple, yes, but that’s really all you need your characters to be in a horror film. Let the environment and atmosphere build the tension (as this one masterfully does). It’s refreshing to watch a horror movie and not be perturbed by idiot characters.
My only complaint of the film is that the conclusion was very underwhelming. I was expecting a much harder-hitting punch, so I felt a bit let-down.
*The “Starry Eyes” recommendation I gave you also has a score similar to this – and people compare the dread and atmosphere to “Suspiria”. For a modern day horror to be compared to a 70’s horror is a pretty big compliment.
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“It’s refreshing to watch a horror movie and not be perturbed by idiot characters.”
Agree with you 100% right there, and the more I think about it the more your opening sentiments make sense. I think they were intentionally thin characters.
I remember thinking the ending was sudden, but on reflection I liked it. I must watch it again some time.
Dude, that comment about Starry Eyes has me even more interested!! Its at the top of my watch-list now. Definitely sounds like it’ll be my sorta thing
Awesome. Let me know what you think when you watch. Write a review if you can. The poster above “thycriticman” also wrote a positive review about it. But don’t read until after you see it b/c the less you know going in, the more surprised you will be. 🙂
I always try to go into movies blind, it is always a better experience I find. And when I write about films I try to be as vague as possible, as there is a certain UK film mag who have spoilers in half their damned reviews.
And I write about every single film I watch 😀 So when I see it I’ll definitely write about it 😀 Stay tuned!
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People piss me off.
I have friends who say it was terrible based on the “stupid” premise, regardless of the execution. These friends suck. Even though one of them is one of my closest friends, I blame his lady for hating it and misguiding his mind.
THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME.
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“People piss me off.”
I must concur hahaha.
Yeah I was keeping my eye out for this cos of your review mate and goddamn in some ways we have very similar tastes. This movie and the OST are supremely AWESOME
What does “OST” stand for?
Official soundtrack 🙂 I should just write soundtracks actually, cos I plan to cover local heavy music too, as well as my own band’s music
Do you mean the “score”? The music composed for the scenes? B/c the actual soundtrack are like real songs playing in a scene that the studio has to pay for the rights to play. The score is the music playing in the background; in this case the score was all those synthesizers.
Yeah, I just looked at the soundtrack CD and it looks like all the tracks are the score. They should just put “Score” on the cover instead of soundtrack. Either way, I’m going to give a listen.
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Yeah its a mixed bag, films normally only had scores until people like Scorcese started using existing songs as a part of the score. So pre-written material counts as part of the soundtrack, in my mind. If you go to the menu at the top, the other soundtracks I wrote about had a few existing songs on them.
This one though was all composed solely for the movie and boy does it work!
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You do make an excellent point that about the characters not having much of a personality except for moving the plot along in the way they spoke with each other. But the way this movie builds tension and suspense is brilliant. Yes great comparisons with this and Suspiria in terms of iconic soundtracks. This is not meant for mass audiences which is a great sign because it means it will not suck
Indeed! I agree with you on all counts! And yeah, the abrasive soundtrack within a horror movie, it was hard not to be reminded of that Goblin’s insane Suspiria score. After seeing It Follows again tho it seems that the characters were sorta purposely void of much personality…. for whatever reason. I do think tho it would have made a better movie if there was a reason to give a shit about these teens… which is something the movie doesn’t really give us. They are likeable enough, but they feel empty. I guess this coulda been intentional but I think it hurts the movie overall
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