Review: It Follows (2014)

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“Childhood is over the moment you know you’re going to die.” – Top Dollar, The Crow (1994)

“Nothing gold can stay.” – Johnny, The Outsiders (1983)

These two quotes came to mind after watching It Follows (2014), directed by David Robert Mitchell. They didn’t come to mind immediately after watching the movie but in doing some research on the film after being left with unanswered questions. It Follows, in my opinion, is one of those films that requires more than one viewing in order to really get the gist of what’s going on. Or maybe I’m just slow…

One of my pet peeves is having to Google a movie after I watch it in order to figure out what happened. This usually results in me either hating the film or obsessing over it. With It Follows, I found myself with lots of questions and when the credits rolled I felt let down and wanting more explanation. But I wasn’t sure if this was because I was supposed to feel this way or if I just didn’t “get it.” It turns out it was a combination of the two.

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When I first heard the premise for this movie I immediately exclaimed: that sounds stupid! Imagine my delight when I discovered that the director said the same thing. This film is put on a pedestal by quite a few people and I wanted to know why. It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I said two things: 1.) I have to get the soundtrack and 2.) I have to see this film.

And so I did both. Oddly enough, I’m one of those weird people who listens to a soundtrack before watching a movie and nine times out of ten, if the soundtrack is good, the movie will be too. No deviation here. Right off the bat the music sucks you into the landscape of the film and carries you along with every beat.

I discovered, after finishing the film, that I focused too much of my attention on the monster and how to destroy it. In fact, several times I blurted out that I would, “…drop kick that old lady in the chest! Booyah!!” and “Why are they not taking a sledge hammer to that goddamn thing?!”

I wanted them to fight back the way I would fight back. In other words, I wanted to get medieval on It Follows’ ass! Alas, no.

In one of the interviews I read, the director said that he didn’t focus too much on the how/why of the monster in the film and that he wanted it to be dreamlike. He said that in a dream, there’s no explanation and no real way to defeat the monster, it just is. This is one of those things that makes the film either enjoyable or not. I think that by him doing this it left the audience with one too many questions about the monster. It was a distraction. I agree that it’s often good for an audience to be left to fill in the details on their own but if you overdo it can be too much of a risk.

Maybe this is all intentional however and we’ll get a background story on the monster/curse in the sequel. Some people really enjoy this method of film making and I’m one of them but I feel they left too much to be filled in here by the audience.

Many people have complimented the cinematography in this film and I have to agree – it’s gorgeous. But so are the lighting, the set design, wardrobe and the score. There are a ton of elements at play here that make It Follows a successful film.

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One of the things that I liked about this film is that it was not set in a definitive period. I loved seeing old school television sets and landline phones. The absence of teenagers glued to their cellphones was a welcome one. It allows for the viewer to fill on their own sense of time and even season.

Another thing that I enjoyed was the use of Detroit as a character itself and a dead one at that. There are several scenes depicting Detroit in all its current decay and rot. If the monster in this film is haunting the characters then the city of Detroit is haunting us.

This films pays homage to a lot of others in the horror genre but not in a smack you across the face kind of way. It’s subtle. The music, I think, is one of the biggest nods (see: John Carpenter).

I could probably write 10,000 words on It Follows because there’s just so many different facets to it. I don’t want to over explain everything either but I will say that it was detrimental to learn that the central theme of the film is not sex, as so many have wrongly assumed. The thing that Mitchell tries to hammer into our heads with this movie is the loss of innocence and the inevitability of being chased by your own mortality.

And really, “hammer” is the wrong word here because this is more of a dream sequence than a linear film. We are seduced instead of hit over the head. Sex is the vehicle used in the story but it’s not the focal point. Once you gather that the entire cast consists of mostly kids you start to realize why certain logic is used or not used. And there are a ton of references to childhood innocence and adulthood deviance.

The bonding between the characters in this film reminded me of The Goonies. And the central theme made me think of the two quotes that I referenced above – nothing golden can stay, something I’m sure the cast of It Follows knows all too well by now. You cannot run from your own mortality and once you realize that you are, indeed, going to die one day, everything seems to sparkle a little less.

From some of the reviews and message boards I’ve read, a lot of people focused on the wrong things in this film and or didn’t bother to dig any deeper. There’s a lot there. But you have to allow yourself to be taken on the journey in order to enjoy the ride.

You can learn more about the film here. I rented it on Amazon. Let me know what you think in the comments.

My rating: 4 stars.

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