Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
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It’s not as fantastic as critics are claiming, but It Follows is creepy and clever and worth seeing if you’re a horror geek. Otherwise, wait until it comes out on DVD.
The opening prologue is certainly pretty gross. A teenage girl bursts out of a house in a normal-looking neighborhood, wearing shortie lingerie and spike heels. She runs around like a maniac then disappears inside her own house. Later, she goes to a remote lakeside location—and the camera discovers her dead, with one of her legs ripped apart and sticking up backward. Yeah, it’s a grabber.
So right away we know that something is wrong in suburban Detroit–and it might have to do with teenage girls and their tendency, even in the surreal 1950/60s setting of the movie, to have unprotected sex.
Pretty high-schooler Jan Height (Maika Monroe) has sex with hunky Hugh (Jake Weary) in the back seat of his car. She thinks everything is cute with them until he knocks her out with chloroform. She wakes up in a grotesquely huge and empty underground parking garage (one of the many wonderful decrepit Detroit settings throughout the film). She’s strapped to a wheelchair and wearing only her underwear. Terrified, she can barely understand what Hugh is telling her. There’s a “thing” he explains, that has infected him, and in order to keep it from killing him, he infected her by having sex with her. Nothing personal, of course, and he’s sorry. The thing—who can look like anyone, stranger or friend — will chase her and kill her unless she passes it along by having sex with someone else. In other words, the only way to stay alive is to give the weird STD to someone else.
Somehow, Jan ends up in the emergency room without having sex with the zombie woman threatening her in the garage. Now, she’s going crazy with all the weird people following her around everywhere—men in long-johns, little old ladies in nightgowns, random teenagers. She locks herself in her room, but the thing breaks a window in her house and sneaks in while Jan screams her head off and hides in terror.
The rest of the movie is about Jan trying to escape the clutches of the thing and the various ways her sister and her friends try to help her, especially her childhood pal, Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who’s sweet and noble. Never once do these teenagers seek the help of an adult. In fact, there isn’t one worthy adult anywhere in these kids’ lives. For adults watching the movie, it’s one of the creepiest of the creepy aspects of it.
In between bouts of boredom, the story manages to keep you somewhat interested. It’s different, it has all the traditional horror movie tropes (you can count them off on your fingers) and a really loud pounding sound track. In his second feature film, Detroit director/writer David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover, 2010) has definitely proven he’s a talent to watch. All actors, cinematography, and production values of the film are top-notch.
There’s a terrific near-final scene in an abandoned swimming pool that is worth the price of admission, but I can’t say it’s worth the time spent watching the scenes that preceded it.
The bottom lines on horror movies are two things. Was it really scary, and do you want to see it again? For many people, including a few local critics, the answer is “Yes” to both questions. For me, the answer is “No.” But It Follows was good enough to make me eager to see Mitchell’s next film.
Marcianne Miller is a member of SEFCA (Southeast Film Critics Assn.) and NCFCA (North Carolina Film Critics Assn.) Email her at email@example.com.