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Do we really not have a thread for this?

 

Mike D'Angelo praised it pretty highly at Cannes last year.  And it's been getting pretty good reviews at Rotten Tomatoes as well.

 

Anyway, I found it to be a very interesting if not entirely successful take on the classic horror film equation teenage sex = death. The performances are all solid, and I appreciated that it doesn't waste time with obvious the horror film tropes. We know initially no one will believe Jay (Maika Monroe) when she tells her friends of the phantom that's following her after she had sex with hunky boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), since she is the only one of them who can see the thing. But writer director David Robert Mitchell doesn't waste time with awkward scenes of them doubting her as she hopelessly tries to convince them otherwise. We know something will happen to convince them of the reality of the danger, and it does.

 

The phantom/monster/apparition can take any form, and it blatantly serves as some type of metaphor for the dangers of promiscuity, most likely STDs. I also thought there was a date rape metaphor, especially since Jay learns about the creature by Hugh drugging her, tying her up, showing her the phantom, and telling her it will stop following her as soon as she sleeps with someone else. If it kills her, it will revert back to stalking him. Obviously, whatever metaphor the creature serves as is imperfect, and that adds to the sense of unease which the film manages to create.

 

I had two big problems. First, Mitchell doesn't really know how to end the film. To his credit, he does come up with a fairly effective final shot, but after following the story through expected and unexpected twists, his finale winds up in a scenario that stretches credibility a little too far by having the teenagers do something that would inevitably attract attention from adult authorities. The noticeable lack of adults throughout the entire film does emphasize the lack of guidance the kids have, so that problem is only a mild distraction. For me, the bigger problem with the finale is that its lighting, sets, and blocking all blatantly recall the finale of Let the Right One In, and that's not a comparison that would help any film.

 

My second problem is the score. From reading other reviews, I am seeing that many critics really liked the score. Not to be snarky, but I don't understand how that's possible. I wouldn't call any of the music bad in itself, but its placement in the film is so obnoxiously conspicuous and attention grabbing, that any scene which might have been scary is completely undermined. I even managed to accurately conduct some of the explosive cues several seconds in advance. While the film does have a consistent uneasy atmosphere throughout, due to the score, I could hardly call it frightening. To be honest, I've been more scared watching animated Disney films than I ever was watching this. Nonetheless, It Follows has a fascinating premise and decent enough execution to be a thought-provoking horror film, even if it is regrettably, not at all frightening.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I liked this film very much but agree that the it falters a bit down the stretch. I don't think that's fatal, although it keeps it from being a 4-star movie. (I'd go 3.5, FWIW.) And, yes, the music was a distraction. I'm not sure it kept the film from being frightening, but it was too intrusive. I honestly wasn't sure if the filmmakers were going for a Carpenter homage -- some of the visual qualities of this film would suggest so, maybe in a more obvious way than I picked up on -- a generic retro feel, or if they just came up with something bad and didn't realize it. 

 

I'm sure others will find the music a pip, but my wondering about the purpose/intent of the soundtrack while the movie was unspooling (do movies "unspool" nowadays? for the most part, no, they don't) was not an asset, even though, like the mixed-bag conclusion, I wouldn't call it fatal.

 

So here we are with two posts in a row highlighting perceived problems with a very good movie (I'm not sure Evan would go that far). What did I like about the movie? As Evan mentioned, the premise is -- no pun intended -- killer. We're looking at the launch of a franchise that will lead, inevitably, to mostly lesser sequels, although you can never say for sure that there might be a later chapter that's the equal of, or even superior to, this first installment. 

 

The one thing I'm sure will stay with me is the lead actress' performance. As I tweeted last weekend, it's instantly iconic and will define her career, whether that career goes the way of Heather Langenkamp or Jamie Lee Curtis.

 

It's funny, too, how unerotic the sex in the film is given what the sex will lead to, although if I were a 15-year-old boy, I probably would've found a way to see this multiple times in part because I would've found it arousing -- if not for the sex (OK, my 15-year-old self would've probably been thrilled by the sex in this movie, as he was by sex in any movie) then for how the filmmakers found a way to parade the lead actress around in her underwear through much of the movie. I don't remember any nudity, but I remember chuckling at how one scene with her in her underwear would end, and not too soon thereafter -- maybe by the very next scene -- there she was again, in her underwear. She'd look terrified, and concerned, of course. She's fearing for her life. And she's doing so ... in her underwear. That's all. It's necessary to the story, guys.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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So here we are with two posts in a row highlighting perceived problems with a very good movie (I'm not sure Evan would go that far).

Drop the "very," and I'm there. I'm thinking this is more of a 3 star film.

 

I don't think any of the things that bugged me were fatal, but they did diminish the effect the film could have had, especially given (as you mention) the killer premise.

I don't remember any nudity,

Surely, you're just referring to the teenagers? Because the phantom appears as a fully naked woman and later as a naked man. Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Surely, you're just referring to the teenagers? Because the phantom appears as a fully naked woman and later as a naked man.

 

Ah, yes, thanks for the correction. There is nudity, just nothing that I remember that might be construed as erotic.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I know previous commenters didn't care for the soundtrack, but if you'd like to hear it on its own terms, here it is.

 

Edit: Having listened to it a bit, I can see how some might find it distracting. It seems like it wants to be like Sinoia Caves' soundtrack for Beyond the Black Rainbow, which also evoked John Carpenter's classic scores, and is also really ominous and overbearing, but that approach works for that movie.

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Thanks, Jason. A second listen proved ... well, I'm not sure what it proved. But I'm glad I could listen to the soundtrack again.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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As I said in my first post, none of the music is bad music, I just didn't think it worked that well with the images on screen.

 

 

And regarding the comments on CT's facebook page: wow. I guess I had forgotten that many Christians believe we're supposed to shun horror films.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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"I don't get it. Horror movies are not of God, this is just weird."

 

I'm so badly tempted to write a piece on the spiritual value of horror films, but I'm not sure if I have time this week.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Evan C wrote:
: I'm so badly tempted to write a piece on the spiritual value of horror films, but I'm not sure if I have time this week.

 

Well, I interviewed Scott Derrickson for CT a decade ago, and I'd be surprised if he hadn't been interviewed for CT on that subject again since then. You could just link to all those articles.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Evan C wrote:

: I'm so badly tempted to write a piece on the spiritual value of horror films, but I'm not sure if I have time this week.

 

Well, I interviewed Scott Derrickson for CT a decade ago, and I'd be surprised if he hadn't been interviewed for CT on that subject again since then. You could just link to all those articles.

Thanks. I found your interview and the one Nick Olson did last year. Maybe I'll also include the video interview he did with SDG for Deliver Us From Evil.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I also found the music to be a distraction, but I'm not sure if this was because I had read your comments previously and was thus thinking about the music.  That being said, I actually *really* enjoyed the music and found it to be mostly effective, and at times very cool.  Yes, I know that those two comments make no sense together.  Maybe the music was a distraction because it was *so* effective and cool, I found that it became a character in this story.  I read the music as being a modernized 70's style.  It had some similarities to Carpenter, but not enough to be a rip off I don't think.

 

 

Evan said:   stretches credibility a little too far by having the teenagers do something that would inevitably attract attention from adult authorities. The noticeable lack of adults throughout the entire film does emphasize the lack of guidance the kids have, so that problem is only a mild distraction. For me, the bigger problem with the finale is that its lighting, sets, and blocking all blatantly recall the finale of Let the Right One In, and that's not a comparison that would help any film.

 

Yes.  I had thought it odd that there was no real consequences for the bullet wound.  It certainly did remind me of Let the Right One In.  This part was where the film started to fall apart for me a little, after all, why wasn't she electrocuted like we are supposed to expect.  Going to a small lake (being inspired by the boat scene) could have solved the Let the Right On In conundrum, but also fit in with the various shots having an attention to nature, which I loved.  I do think that the climax and solution should have fit in with those shots somehow.

 

But yes, the last shot was very effective and ended the film on a note that gives us something to ponder.  My take -  that was just some normal person behind them, as they had broken the curse because they were in love during their sexual activity, in contrast to the previous people.

Edited by Attica
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Oh.  Also, having seen the Babadook last week, and It Follows this evening, I think I'm having a pretty good run of horror flicks.

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"I don't get it. Horror movies are not of God, this is just weird."

 

I'm so badly tempted to write a piece on the spiritual value of horror films, but I'm not sure if I have time this week.

FWIW, I wrote a 5-part "theology of horror" series on my blog a few years ago.

 

It Follows has my curiosity piqued, but I can handle only one or two horror films in theaters per year. It's a genre I greatly appreciate, and even love at times, but only in smaller doses.

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Joel.  In a sense your in luck.  Because I can't really see that in any given year you would find much more than a couple of horror films of this caliber, in the mainstream theatres.  O can't really think of a year where there was more than 2 or 3 that I bothered to see.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll second Attica in that I found the music to be effectively disconcerting and a strong enhancement to an already-good film. I was familiar with the premise--STD zombie follows people--but it's amazing how such a simple idea can work so well, especially when the STD zombie (that's what I'm calling it) can change its form at will. I would often be caught off guard with second looks, wondering "did I just see it?" as the camera slowly pans in a full 360 degrees, only to realize that I had seen it...or at least a person walking slowly in a straight line. It Follows wasn't necessarily frightening, but it was certainly unsettling, and definitely original.

 

What I appreciate about It Follows and David Robert Mitchell's previous film, The Myth of the American Sleepover, is its portrayal of teenagers and youth culture in America. It's been mentioned that the adults and authorities don't seem to be fully present in the film, and that's certainly intentional. The actions in the final climactic scene seemingly should have prompted an adult response, but they just...don't. Or at least not a response one we're made privy to, because it doesn't matter--this is a teen's narrative. Jay's mother is never full seen--her face is always just out of focus or off camera. I think Mitchell is capturing the systemic abandonment of youth by adults in our culture. Much like the abandoned Detroit homes, the era of the 1950s nuclear family is wholly crumbling, and teenagers are not only left to their own devices by parents, but they prefer it that way. Adults are often seen as incompetent and unable to help (at best) or an uncaring or dangerous power (at worst). As a youth pastor, I've been allowed to see glimpses of this underground youth culture, this world of teenagers when adults are not around. These are teenagers who are dealing with and fighting against very real and adult subjects, sexuality in particular. Maika Monroe does a fantastic job of being at once adult and childlike, both responsible and immature. The other teen actors do likewise. Mitchell has somehow tapped into the underground youth world in his films in a unique and realistic way, and I can't wait to see what he makes next.

Edited by Joel Mayward
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  • 6 months later...

Caught this last night (Amazon Prime had a $1 rental deal).

There's one bit of illogic that just galls me, and I wouldn't have noticed it if it weren't for that YouTube ancillary critic of the Star Wars prequels.  You know the guy... the one who plays a homocidal maniac who takes time away from kidnapping and torturing young women to explain how bad the sequels are...

Well, in one early segment, he complains about how in *The Phantom Menace* a spaceship landed on a planet, afterwards the heroes had to travel extensively to the other side of the planet, underwater, to get to where they needed to go.  And he was complaining... why couldn't they have landed their craft on the other side of the planet?

That's the thing with this "it" in "It Follows."  We see it distinctly in the background of many scenes, slowly coming forward towards our heroes.

But... where does "it" come from?  Does it begin that long arduous trek from where it last slew somebody?  How, then, did it slay (off-screen) the three guys on the boat (unless the three guys docked).  If it appears out of nowhere... why can't it appear just a couple of feet away from the heroine?

If it takes on any figure, why does it shift figures mid-view, and why does it retract into some of the same figures as before (like that ultra-tall dude)?  Did it kill the mother of that kid, or did it just resemble her, with her being asleep in the next room? 

The music was unmemorable for me. 

And what's the point of showing these kids being interested in old black and white movies, or a packed theater for the movie "Charade" (but no clips from that film)?  They could've done that... it's in the public domain.

Nick

Nick Alexander

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But... where does "it" come from?  Does it begin that long arduous trek from where it last slew somebody?  How, then, did it slay (off-screen) the three guys on the boat (unless the three guys docked).  If it appears out of nowhere... why can't it appear just a couple of feet away from the heroine?

I didn't see any inconsistency in the film regarding this. It doesn't appear out of nowhere or jump through space. It always moves at the same slow pace (probably about 2MPH), and when it kills one victim it simply turns its attention to the next person in line and continues walking.

The swimming pool scene shows that it can swim at about the same speed it walks, so I don't see any difficulty about the guys on the boat.

 

If it takes on any figure, why does it shift figures mid-view, and why does it retract into some of the same figures as before (like that ultra-tall dude)?  Did it kill the mother of that kid, or did it just resemble her, with her being asleep in the next room?

It can take on anyone's appearance, not just that of people it's killed. However, the film doesn't exploit this to maximum effect. It could have added additional suspense (or pathos) to some scenes, and instead just seems random.

I found the film pretty terrifying, but given my sensitivity to horror that doesn't mean much. I will say that if some joker had come slowly walking, blank-faced, into the theater during the credits, I would have booked it for the emergency exit.

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It was a horror movie where their world didn't quite make sense and didn't have to.  Horror films rip a "sensible" view of the world out from under us.  Some of these things were offscreen to enough of an extent that it didn't matter and didn't take away from the plausibility of the film, at least so far as any expectations of plausibility in a horror film.

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But... where does "it" come from?  Does it begin that long arduous trek from where it last slew somebody? 

Yep.

How, then, did it slay (off-screen) the three guys on the boat (unless the three guys docked). 

Probably walked/swam slowly over to the boat.

If it appears out of nowhere... why can't it appear just a couple of feet away from the heroine?

It can't/doesn't appear out of nowhere; it slowly and steadily moves from its last victim towards the next in order.

If it takes on any figure, why does it shift figures mid-view, and why does it retract into some of the same figures as before (like that ultra-tall dude)? 

Who knows? Because it can. It's creepy like that.

Did it kill the mother of that kid, or did it just resemble her, with her being asleep in the next room?

I think it just resembled her; it doesn't seem to attack other people unless provoked by an attempt to thwart it from reaching its victim.

 

The only inconsistency I found with its actions and rhythms was when it appears standing on a roof, unmoving. Why did it go up there? And how? Still creepy.

Edited by Joel Mayward
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There's one bit of illogic that just galls me, and I wouldn't have noticed it if it weren't for that YouTube ancillary critic of the Star Wars prequels.  You know the guy... the one who plays a homocidal maniac who takes time away from kidnapping and torturing young women to explain how bad the sequels are...

Well, in one early segment, he complains about how in *The Phantom Menace* a spaceship landed on a planet, afterwards the heroes had to travel extensively to the other side of the planet, underwater, to get to where they needed to go.  And he was complaining... why couldn't they have landed their craft on the other side of the planet?

 

Um...that's because they didn't land the ship. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stowed away on the Trade Federation landing craft. Presumably, this was a staging area for them to unload their military machine.

Anyway,... I really dug IT FOLLOWS. 

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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There's one bit of illogic that just galls me, and I wouldn't have noticed it if it weren't for that YouTube ancillary critic of the Star Wars prequels.  You know the guy... the one who plays a homocidal maniac who takes time away from kidnapping and torturing young women to explain how bad the sequels are...

Well, in one early segment, he complains about how in *The Phantom Menace* a spaceship landed on a planet, afterwards the heroes had to travel extensively to the other side of the planet, underwater, to get to where they needed to go.  And he was complaining... why couldn't they have landed their craft on the other side of the planet?

 

Um...that's because they didn't land the ship. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stowed away on the Trade Federation landing craft. Presumably, this was a staging area for them to unload their military machine.

Thank you.  I was going to comment on the same thing, but didn't want to be seen as too much of a nerd. :D

I enjoy the analysis provided by Mr. Plinkett, but he was way off in this particular criticism.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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I'm still not quite buying this argument.

Those guys on the boat.  They are three guys.  She goes on, does her thing, leaves... does she swim back to shore, or do they dock?

This is kind of important; it's glossed over, because it doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Let's say they dock.  That means that, presuming they go BACK IN THE BOAT as she goes home, at one point she has to pass "it" on the way back.  But she doesn't.  Their paths don't cross.

That "it" then swims back to the boat (it takes a long time), with the guys on the boat, then it may be properly assumed that those guys are not interested in ever being on land, ever.  Because that's a lonnnnng time.

Let's assume they dock.  The three go their separate ways.  They go to three different towns.  Different houses. 

Are they married?  Suppose they have relations.  Suddenly "it" has to follow one of their wives.

Maybe they are swinging singles.  Fisherman guy's wife #1 goes dead, while fishermen #2 and #3 go off to the swinging Detroit scene.

Suddenly Fisherman #1 is freaked out, doesn't know what to do, but girls of fishermen 2 and 3 suddenly catch "it."

Now, where is "it" going to go next?  Fisherman 1?  Okay, fine.  But there's girl-of-fisherman 2 and girl-of-fisherman-3 before fisherman 2 decides to have another outing the next night, about thirty miles away.  His catch is a foreign exchange student who will be flying back to Brussels the VERY NEXT DAY.

Suddenly "it" has to walk and then swim across the entire Atlantic Ocean before it can catch up with fishermen 2 and 3, their conquests, and their conquests' conquests.

The combinatorics of this is simply unmanagable.  And this is BEFORE it finally gets back to the protagonist, who may have had relations with many others before then.

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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  • 1 month later...

I think you're way overthinking it. I assumed that what happened was that she went out and had sex with the guys on the boat and came home, which bought her a few days (at the cost of being quite traumatic for her -- the scene where she is on the way home she looks just totally broken). Whoever she was with first became infected, and even if he passed it on, none of them knew about the "curse" and so wouldn't be prepared and were easy prey. So the "thing" just worked its way back down the line back to J

I don't think there was an implication that they lived out on the water or anything. They were just out for a fishing trip.

I loved the movie, including the soundtrack. But I think my favorite technical aspect may have been the cinematography. Super-slow circular pans, lots of zoomed in "voyeur" establishing shots. Very effective in building the paranoia the that the film depended on.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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