Alright so I haven’t done a movie in a while, but recently I watched something that’s been getting a lot of hubbub around it for being the greatest horror movie in recent years. Or, something like that.
Me being somewhat of a horror fan (I don’t generally go out of my way to watch horror movies, but I do go through phases where all I want to watch is horror), I thought I’d take a watch. At 1 in the morning. With the light out and headphones in, yadayadayada, whatever else you can dream up for the perfect horror-viewing setup.
Now, for some context, my experience with horror movies usually involved me “not taking anything seriously and laughing at all the contrived shit that tries to scare people.” Paranormal activity? Apparently scared a shit ton of people, I thought it was just ludicrously bad. It’s a paramount example of people acting dumb in order to provoke the scariness. The movie builds the expectation for scary shit to happen, and “scary shit” just happens EXACTLY as expected, which kind of makes it not scary. Not to mention the main dude is a douche canoe and I think the most horrifying part of the movie is that the woman put up with his bullshit for so long rather than packing her bags and leaving him to the demon.
It Follows does a masterful job of not falling into a lot of shitty horror traps. It plays with expectations, and it’s characters serve far more purpose than “provoking the monster.” They are actual people with actual lives and feelings. They feel so much more real than the douchebro whose only purpose in life is to be an asshole and provoke the monster so that the monster gets scarier and kills people.
The concept of It Follows is that there’s a monster who is always, always, always following a cursed person. The monster can only be seen by those cursed, and it takes on the shape of either people they know or total strangers, but it is always walking towards the cursed victim. If it touches the victim, it will kill the victim. However, this curse can be transmitted sexually, and if the cursed person has sex, the new cursed person will become the target of the monster. The monster will continue following whoever is the newest target until it reaches them and kills them, and then it will turn its focus back to the previous target and work its way down the line like that.
Now, one of the crucial limitations of this monster is that it walks. It does not run, or drive, or teleport. It walks, and because of that it takes time for the monster to get from one place to another, and so the characters make use of that and drive far away, giving them a few days to rest before the monster catches up, and then just drive back. They do that a few times.
What I love about this concept is that it’s just so damn eerie. Because the monster is not all powerful and not constantly present and immediate, the monster often lingers off-camera and creates a subtler, deeper sense of dread than a Freddy Krueger who you know will be there as soon as you fall asleep to kill you. This monster allows the movie to play with your expectations more.
One of the best parts of how it handled the monster was the subtlety of its appearances. Sometimes the monster was right in focus, looking bizarrely out of place. Other times? The monster isn’t even pointed out. the characters will think they’re safe for the moment, but you see somebody in the distance walking in their general direction. You don’t even know if that was the monster or not, but because of the way it’s shot, it lets you know that it could be. Which is the beauty of this movie. It constantly establishes and re-establishes that a character walking by in the background might not be the monster…. but it could be. For 80 percent of the movie, this atmospheric trick worked brilliantly.
Aside from the monster, the writing was phenomenal for a horror movie. The main cast of characters were very real with very real desires. There was more to them than just being screaming murder-potentials and the previously described douchebro.
My main problem with the movie came near the ending. I’m not going to spoil it, but I will say the monster changed its behaviour in a way that broke the tension of the film and kind of just made the monster overall seem ridiculous. I’ve read some other peoples’ discussions online about the monster consistency, about how some people didn’t like the monster changing its behaviour, whereas others thought the inconsistencies added to messing with expectations. All I gotta say is, the changing of behaviours to mess with expectations could have been done in a far more subtle way that remained consistent with the rest of the movie, instead of propelling the movie into trite, groan-worthy horror-trope territory. Despite that, though, this movie is definitely worth a watch.