“It Follows” Movie Review

     A small 1979 horror film called “Halloween” (wink wink), operated with a premise of an unknown shape following teenagers in the setting of well lit seemingly safe neighborhood streets.  The threat, having already been established in the film’s prologue, was created by John Carpenter’s ability to sustain unbearable tension, as well as the haunting score that accompanied these scenes, to the point we as the audience never really knew what bush this guy might jump out of.  In wide shots of the kids walking home, he’s subtly blurred out of focus in the background, but when one of them has that hair raising in the back of her neck moment and looks back, he’s gone.  When Michael Myers finally does decide to engage, right away we realize as these kids run away from him, he continues to gain ground merely by walking.  They can’t get the key into the door lock fast enough.  I think it’s clear this was the inspiration for writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s new film “It Follows”, an indie horror that attempts to recreate the look and feel of those 80s horror classics many of us consider to be the best of the genre.

     Like “Halloween”, Mitchell’s film begins with a prologue as well, but unfortunately doesn’t really establish what it is the character on screen is dealing with.  From our point of view, she appears to be running from something, in high heels no less, but we are no more clued into what is going on than her dad is when he sees her aimlessly running around the neighborhood and then getting into her car and driving away.  We later meet Jay (Maika Monroe), her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), and friends Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who all live in a normal middle class Detroit neighborhood.  With the way the interiors of the homes look (tube televisions) and the way the kids are dressed and how they spend their free time (no iPhones in sight), I’m to assume the story is set in the 80s sometime, but that’s never really indicated.  Jay is in a dating phase of her young life and is set to go out with a kid named Jeff (Jake Weary). Their date begins innocently enough, as they end up at a vintage movie house to take in a classic film when Jay suggests they play a game.

     The game consists of one person picking two random people who they would rather be within the room and have the other one try and guess who it is and why.  While in the theater, it’s Jay’s turn, but when Jeff asks her if it’s the woman seated behind them in the yellow dress, there’s a problem.  As far as Jay can see, there is no woman in a yellow dress.  Suddenly Jeff asks if they can leave and the date ends.  Still though, Jay sees something positive in her time with Jeff and the two have sex on their second date.  Mitchell here definitely has something to say about the decision making process people employ when deciding who they will and won’t sleep with.  Her childhood and current friend Paul is clearly pining for her and yet she continues to be swayed by the ones with questionable character and motives.  We all learn though right?

     Immediately following their sexual encounter, Jeff does the unthinkable and kidnaps Jay by force.  She awakens tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned parking garage, as she sees Jeff searching the surroundings with a flashlight.  He then lays it all out to her.  Apparently, by having sex with Jay, he has passed on a curse in which she will be constantly followed by an undead being that can take the form of any person it pleases.  As the inheritor of the curse, only she will be able to see the follower, who I presume if it does get to her will kill her.  Jeff tells her if she dies, the curse will revert back to him, but if she goes and sleeps with someone else, the curse will then pass on to that person.  And so the story moves forward with a series of sequences designed to put Jay in situations, such as open spaces, where these followers appear from a distance and begin walking straight for her, but also giving her ample time to escape.

     Even when the kids attempt to set a trap for the follower, who curiously always seems to be naked, the final act falls flat when nothing is ever explained as to how or why this whole curse started in the first place.  Usually, there’s some plot device, such as a character, that appears to lend their expertise on the matter at hand (think Tangina in “Poltergeist” or Dr. Loomis in “Halloween”), but that person or device is no where to be found in this film.  Instead, it’s a series of bad decisions being made by kids in their late teens and early 20s without a single adult present in any scene.  Perhaps, Mitchell is simply attempting to make a statement about the mistakes we all make at that young age and how those not so innocent attempts at sexual experimentation can continue to follow you for years and maybe decades.  Or maybe he’s making a point about the absence of parents during a crucial point in a young person’s life.

     There are few minor scares, but most of the film has the characters doing  a lot of sitting around and waiting to a point where the dialogue is crucial in keeping the audience interested and unfortunately Mitchell is not successful in this department since the characters are as much in the dark about what is going on as the audience is.  He does; however, create a number of clever situations, one in particular where the group makes their way to a beach house and you realize there are two of one person as the camera switches angles which means one of them isn’t that person.  It certainly helps that the synthesized score conjures thoughts of Carpenter’s “Halloween” score and might be one of the most effectively used in a horror film in quite some time.  Sadly, these positives won’t be enough to lure in audiences through word of mouth, even though the studio is trying to sell “It Follows” as the next “Paranormal Activity” type indie sensation.  My guess is most will likely leave the theater shaking their heads in disappointment. GRADE: C-