Everyone knows the moral of the fable about the Tortoise and the Hare: slow and steady wins the race. Horror films have taken that moral and flipped the script by having the slow and steady have the biggest death counts. From zombies to slasher icons Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, that menacing feeling you get as a deadly force trudges after you, not allowing any obstacle to get in its way. It allows us to think we would have the upper hand. “Yeah, I’d just drive like a bat out of hell!” But then in our dreams, we can’t move, like we are stuck in molasses. Another film has tried to tap into that feeling with IT FOLLOWS, a supernatural stalker that is taking baby steps towards ending your life.
The story centers on Jay (Maika Monroe, THE GUEST), a girl living at home with her mom and sister, constantly surrounded by a group of friends. Jay recently started dating someone new and things seen pretty euphoric until they take things to the next level. After her tryst, she begins to see people walking towards her, always different, always alone, and always menacing. No matter how far she runs or how fast, the predator always has the ability to find and catch up to her. She’s told that to get rid of it, she’ll need to sleep with someone else and forewarn them; for if they are caught and killed, she’s back under fire.
Under the watch of David Robert Mitchell, writer and director, we get a modestly told story about a sexually transmitted spectre. While many writers could have taken the same premise and made the film a raunch fest of debauchery, IT FOLLOWS keeps our heroine classy. The story isn’t a conduit for displaying a teenager’s horndog fantasies, but instead a catalyst for us to get to see more of Jay’s life, filled with subtle clues about her past. Very much a character piece, we are presented with likeable characters throughout the film, something lacking in most horror today. And besides being likeable, even the smaller roles have depth.
While all of the actors do a great job with their roles, I feel that Keir Gilchrist steals the show. He came under my radar as the role of the son in Showtime’s United States of Tara. He showed his chops well in the show, holding his own against many veteran actors like Toni Collette and John Corbett. He also did great in IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY opposite Zach Galifianakis. So, when I heard that he was involved, I was intrigued. And I wasn’t disappointed as his character, Paul, is a tormented person with unrequited love for Jay. He’s perpetually in the friend zone but wants to do what he can to help out Jay and their friends.
Beautifully shot in the suburbs of Detroit, we get many long takes and tracking shots, showing both a pristine suburban neighborhood and a squalid area of tenements. That duality of the area adds to the overall tone, bolstering the depth that created by the characters and the script. Mitchell shows his indie drama chops off quite a bit in this, but adds in plenty of perspective skewing shots, taking it to the proper level of jarring the viewer’s senses enough to put you at unease.
The score and soundtrack was designed by Rich Vreeland, also known by his stage name Disasterpeace. Mitchell reached out to Vreeland after falling in love with the soundtrack he made for the video game Fez. Normally not a fan of horror, Vreeland tapped into his fear and created some truly disturbing sounds that escalate the dread even more so. The Blu-Ray has a nice little interview with Vreeland about his past and how he became involved with the project.
Included on the Blu-Ray, we get something that Radius TWC did previously with their release of SNOWPIERCER, that being a critic’s commentary moderated by Scott Weinberg. Rather than just being a dry commentary about the making of the film, Weinberg does a great job of focusing more on the themes presented, allowing for more discussion. He mentions that the film breeds discussion, and I can agree, as it touches on so many different levels, making it a unique experience for each viewer.
Try as you might to avoid this film, but eventually, if you are a fan of horror, it will find you. Might as well enjoy the slow ride. Take it easy.
IT FOLLOWS is available on Blu-Ray and DVD July 14th, 2015.