Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It Follows

Here's a cinematic oddity: A horror movie gets a small theatrical release simultaneous with a pay-per-view launch, but its limited release is so successful, the distributors pull the PPV and give it a wide release! The jury's out on whether this was worth it, though I gotta think that going from $50K/day box office to $500K/day has to be worth something. Like, $450K/day. (Up to about $10M now!)

What's it about? Well, the premise is simple enough: There's a boogen wandering around with an itchin' to kill a girl. Why? Because she had sex!

Heh.

This is not the '80s era "virgin lives" trope, which actually wasn't as much a thing as it was made out to be in retrospect. Rather, this is the monster-as-venereal-disease trope of the '70s—indeed David Cronenberg cut his teeth on this theme with flicks like Shivers and Rabid. In this case, having sex with a cursed person transfers the curse to you, and tags you with a supernatural GPS the boogen uses to...

Walk

Ever

So

Slowly

Toward

You

So, sort of like a zombie movie where there's only one zombie.

Speaking of the '70s, this movie sort of takes place in it. There are no cell phones, no computers, no social media, only CRT TVs, a lot of big cars, porn magazines, and kids watching black-and-white horror movies with Peter Graves far into the night. Also, parents and adults only on the periphery.

And then one character has a pink clamshell e-reader (which she's using to read Dostoyefsky's The Idiot) of a sort I've never seen before.

Which, I believe, is the director's way of saying, "Chill. It's a campfire story. Who cares when it takes place?"

The music, which is occasionally overbearing, is also sometimes very effective, recalling classic '70s horror movies, especially Phantasm, which is a good choice since it's not as on-the-nose as an homage to Halloween, Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street would have been.

The opening shot reminded me of Halloween, though: The peaceful suburban street where something terrible is going on, even though no one sees what it is. Actually, the whole "unstoppable boogen" has a John Carpenter feel to it. And the main characters' house is sort of a downscale Nightmare on Elm Street house.

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell brings to this mix of familiar elements some more idiosyncratic touches. For example, the movie takes place in-and-around Detroit. As such, he has a wide range of atmospheres to draw on: The kids live in a decent, if not affluent suburb around 12-mile. At one point, they go to the lake (Michigan). But around these nice settings, we also have the post-apocalyptic Packard Plant, the beautiful-but-ominous-looking-at-night Water Works Park, and the poignant street-by-street travel that shows Detroit's transition between glory, ruin and abandonment.

With buckets of atmosphere to spare, Mitchell adds to it by having a creature that can look like anyone, and then constantly plays with middle-range shots to increase the sense of paranoia. Is that It? No? Who's that?

On top of that, the creature can only be seen by its intended victim, meaning your pals can't easily watch out for you.

Primarily a movie like this lives-or-dies on suspense, of which we are particularly fond, but which we also can easily lose if the movie breaks its own rules. The way It Follows works is by twisting expectations about how it's going to work. At least, I expected It to be a particular type of creature, and when it wasn't I was fairly surprised.

And having set the rules, the movie by-and-large doesn't break them, although I don't know if the math would work out as far as walking everywhere. I thought about this in terms of my own life and realized I'd never see the thing. It would follow me to work in the morning, but by the time it could get there, I'd be on the way home.

Heh. Californians.

There's a very nice touch here where the kids come up with a cockamamie Scooby Doo scheme to defeat the monster that fails horribly. I really liked that. In any other movie, that stupid idea would've worked.

So, we all liked it. I think I liked it the most, though The Flower was also pleased. The Boy had a problem—he has my problem, where he can't tell people apart, especially in movies—in that he thought that the teaser at the beginning was actually the ending of the film. Once he realized that the buxom, leggy brunette killed at the start was not the lithe blonde heroine, he reevaluated the movie more positively.

"I hate it when they show the ending first!"
"Uh..."

Anyway, glad we got to see it, especially in the theater. Note that even though this movie is rated R, it's actually for sex and not violence. There's very little violence in the movie. Mostly it has what you might call prophylactic sex.

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