IT FOLLOWS: THE ART OF MAKING BOLD CHOICES
If you are an active horror movie buff, chances are good that you have seen, or at least heard about, the recent IT FOLLOWS, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. If not, I would HIGHLY recommend it as it is one of the most original, daring, and complete horror films I’ve ever seen. Watching it again, I was reminded of a great piece of advice that someone (I can’t remember who) gave me as a youth:
“If you are going to make choices, make bold choices.”
All creative endeavors engender the need for concrete choices to be made, pretty much all the time. Nowhere in the arts is that more true than in the act of filmmaking. Shooting a film of any length, but especially a feature, requires zillions of people working in different departments, all trying to make a cohesive final piece. The job of the director is to make the various choices about acting, sound, lighting, art design, music, editing, etc., so that everyone’s efforts add up to a worthwhile whole.
IT FOLLOWS is a an example of a horror movie where ONLY bold choices were made. For a film nut like myself, this is a feast of a movie for that reason. It’s about a demon/curse sort of thing that is passed on via sexual intercourse. If you have the curse (or whatever it is), you will be followed by this thing until it catches you and kills you. It can look like anyone. It never stops, and only the infected can see it. A young woman, Jay (Maika Monroe), is given the curse by her sketchy new boyfriend, who tells her the only way to avoid being killed by the whatever-it-is, is to have sex with someone else. The bulk of the story involves Jay, her sister, and a few friends as they try to deal with this. And it eventually involves the audience madly scanning the background of every scene for the whatever-it-is in its latest guise.
The main thing that sets IT FOLLOWS apart from most horror movies is that it is really cinematic. Many horror joints are just plain mediocre as films, and skate by on their exploitation elements. Many look like made-for-television movies, with a little bit more blood added. IT FOLLOWS, on the other hand, treats every single shot with care. There isn’t a throw away image in the whole thing. The lighting throughout is really evocative, the feeling of being immersed in the setting is complete. This does not make the film seem stuffy or eggheaded, instead it gives a dream-like quality to the whole thing.
It also does something that usually only “art films” bother with, which is that the movie itself trains the viewer to feel dread through use of some camera motifs. For example, by the middle of the movie, if the camera does a complete 360, then you know something bad is about to happen, and we will most likely be seeing the whatever-it-is on its inexorable walk toward its latest victim. Likewise, really deep zooms are used throughout, which gets your pulse pounding by the end. How cool!
Setting-wise, IT FOLLOWS does all sorts of odd and bold things. It clearly takes place in the suburbs around Detroit, and within the outskirts of the city. Other than that, it’s almost impossible to figure out what year the movie takes place. The neighborhood where Jay lives feels like it was imported directly from my childhood in the 1970s, there are no newer model cars and not a single cellphone (Yay!) in the whole movie. And yet, one of the characters has a weird shell-shaped e-reader that she’s constantly quoting from (Dostoyevsky, of all things). This adds an extra element of dreaminess, which is very unique.
Speaking of unique, the soundtrack by Disasterpeace is a frikkin masterpiece! It is almost a character itself by the end, it’s so evocative. At the same time, it’s just plain odd, made up of mostly synthesizers with a slightly retro vibe. I could listen to the music all day long.
IT FOLLOWS also never spoils the building horror by explaining ANY OF IT. Woo Hoo! We never have to sit through the Expository Policeman or Wise Older Person who explains the origins and motives of the whatever-it-is. We only know what the characters know, and they are scared out of their wits.
I could go on and on about this film and its cool ideas, but I’m going to end it here. Seriously, though, if you have yet to see IT FOLLOWS, it is really worth your time, especially if you like movies and filmmakers who really take chances.