It Follows **
One Liner Review:
Some well-made garbage, this movie looks and sounds great, but the story is very bare bones, and sure doesn’t hold up for a feature length film.
This is a movie with great atmosphere, music, and filming style, yet a pretty lousy story. And that ends up ruining just about everything else. The story is about a sort of curse, just like many other horror movies. And this curse comes with it’s own set of rules and situations. All of that is fine. The problem is that the storyline doesn’t stick to its own rules. On top of that the characters continually make the dumbest decisions imaginable, including leaving a crowded house to go to an abandoned park by yourself in the middle of the night when a ghost is after you. The first portions of the movie are pretty good, and that’s mainly because we don’t have a whole lot of information just yet. The more this movie tells us, the dumber it gets. Especially since it either can’t keep track of its own rules or doesn’t seem to care.
It Follows is not a very good movie. The tone and setting and music, and all the things that show the movie is well-made are spot on. But the storyline itself is pretty lousy. And the characters aren’t a whole lot better. The idea here is that there is a curse which involves ghosts walking towards you, one at a time. If they catch you, then they kill you, (athough even that, is not exactly true.) And this curse can be passed off to someone else, simply by having sex with that person. While not the smartest idea in the world, you have to give this movie credit for at least coming up with something kind of original. The passing off thing reminds me of the Denzel Washington spirit movie Fallen. Especially since the way it works is that if the ghost does kill the person who it is targetting, then it goes back to the previous person it was after and starts targeting that person again.
Unfortunately, the less we know about this premise, the better. The more rules we learn, the dumber it actually gets. The opening scenes, where we haven’t been told a whole lot yet, happen to be some of the best scenes in the film. It’s like the old Hitchcock trope, if you don’t see it, but have to imagine it for yourself, then what you imagine is ten times scarier than anything they could actually show you. Same thing here. When we see a girl running away from something and acting really weird at the start of the film, it’s pretty freaky. Part of that is because we don’t see or know what she’s running away from. This girl runs in and then out of her house, stands in the middle of the street, staring at something and ends up driving off in a panic. The girl drives to a beach where she calls her parents and says she loves them. Cut to the morning and she is there, lying on the sand, dead. Her leg is split apart in a very disgusting and unusual way. This is the scariest shot in the movie. It never gets any explanation or any other moment that comes close to it. At least the scene does its job, which is to make us excited and get our attention.
After this, we meet our main character, Jay. She’s a blonde college student who lives at home with her sister. The two of them constantly have friends over the house, even in the middle of the night. There’s Kelly, Jay’s sister, and then Yara and Paul. Where are the parents? We don’t really get an answer to this question. We don’t get much of an introduction to these friend characters, either. They are just there, in the living room, watching TV, when Jay goes out for a date. Her date is to a movie theater with a guy named Hugh. They start playing a game while waiting on the line. The game involves them looking at the people around them and guessing about who each other picked. This game continues while in the movie theater, and when it’s Hugh’s turn, he points to a girl in a yellow dress. Jay can’t see the girl and this disturbs Hugh to the point where he makes them leave the theater.
Despite this, Jay has another date with Hugh. This time, they drive to an abandoned park and have sex in his car. Almost immediately afterwards, Hugh puts choloroform over Jay’s mouth and drugs her into unconciousness. When she wakes up, Jay is in her underwear, tied to a chair, with Hugh standing a good distance away. All of this is pretty cool. The not knowing what it’s all about or what exactly is happenign, is a scary feeling. Hugh maintains his distance, but talks to Jay, explaining the rules of what is about to start happening to her. He tells her that there is something that’s about to start following her and that the only way to get rid of it is to pass it off by sleeping with someone else. He even shows her what’s coming, as they look down the hill and see a person walking towards them.
For some reason, the element of Jay not believing Hugh, and thinking he is crazy, is nowhere to be found. Sure, there’s a naked woman walking towards them, but even still, Jay would probably think it was just someone who was after Hugh or a joke that this sicko setup or something. After all, he did just chlorophorm her and then tie her to a chair. Believing him right away is the first in a long line of bad calls and ridiculous blunders that Jay makes. The next comes when she is in school, sitting in a college classroom, listening to a professor speak to the class. Jay starts staring out the window and notices an older woman in a hospital gown walking towards the room, from outside. She gets up and leaves the class in a hury, all freaked out. Of course, the safest place would probably have been to stay right there, in that room, surrounded by other students. Then maybe Jay would have found out a little more about this thing, such as whether or not it could walk through walls.
Jay doesn’t think about surrounding herself with others, even when her friends point out that maybe she should. These friends all decide to spend the night over at Jay’s house to help her out and make her feel safe. But as soon as one of these ghosts appears and starts walking up behind Yara, Jay runs outside, gets on her bike and rides off. It just doesn’t make any sense. Anyone in this situation would want to stay around other people. Oh, it gets worse. You see, Jay is riding off to dumbest place you can imagine. She goes to an abandoned park in the middle of the woods, while it is pitch black outside, and just sits on the swings by herself. What the hell is this girl thinking? Luckily her friends find her and get there before the ghost and they decide to go on a mission together to find Hugh and get answers about what this thing really is.
The idea to go and find Hugh, here, in the middle of the movie, is a great one. It’s the characters taking action, instead of just sitting there, running away every time a ghost shows up. I like the way it’s not so easy to figure out who Hugh really is and where they can find him, and the characters have to sort of play detective. First they go to the house where Hugh drove Jay to. They find a photograph with Hugh in a jacket that has a highschool insignia on it. From there they go to his highschool and find out who he is. Now they go to his house and sit down with him in a circle on the lawn outside, to talk about things. There’s a great moment where a regular person walks by and Hugh gets all freaked out, thinking it’s a ghost, asking the others if they see her too. And of course they do. But for all the fun that the mission was to find Hugh so they could get more information from him, this guy really doesn’t have anything new to tell them. All he tells them is that Jay needs to sleep with someone else, something that he already told her the night when he passed it off. He also tells her that if the ghost catches up to her, it will kill her, but that turns out to not be true, as one actually does catch up to her on the beach later on, and simply pulls her hair.
After leaving Hugh, the friends decide to go to the lake house of one of the friends’ family. This friend, Craig, who lives across the street from Jay, teaches her how to shoot a gun. Then when the ghost appears, she starts firing away at it on the beach, even though Craig is right behind the ghost. Bullets go whizzing through the air and Craig has to duck behind a chair as the gunshots slam into it. Later on, at a pool scene, something similar happens with one of Jay’s other friends firing a gun at free will, without thinking about the people who are around and might get hit. It is incredibly stupid. The ghosts who come after Jay in this scene aren’t exactly scary either.
Jay eventually decides to try the passing it off idea and sleeps with one of the guys. This leads to a really interesting scene where the other guy confronts Jay about it, asking why she didn’t choose him. This might have nothing to do with the ghosts, but it’s a very human situation of jealousy and putting all the cards on the table, letting ones true feelings out. This is the kind of scene that works. Like the scene of the kids sitting around in a circle on the lawn, the information that came out in that scene might have been pretty worthless, but just the way the kids were sitting around talking, kids being kids, was kind of fun. Adults would be inviting each other in to sit on the couch in the living room, but for these kids, it’s all about sitting on the ground outside. And none of this has anything to do with the ghosts. That’s the irony here. The scenes that often work best are the ones that are removed from the silly walking ghost plot.
There are lots of problems with this movie, and that’s a terrible shame considering how well the music and camera shots set up the atmosphere. Unfortunately there’s just no substitute for a good story. This movie wants to be like The Ring, The Grudge, or Drag Me To Hell about a unique curse that comes with a whole set of rules. That’s all fine, if the rules were ones that could really be followed or were consistent. Instead, we get a ghost that changes forms whenever it pleases, so that in one moment Jay watches the ghost in the form of Craig, breaking into a house, and then she gets into the house, the ghost has changed forms to now be Craig’s mom. The sleeping with someone to pass it off part doesn’t work any better, as Craig doesn’t get followed or targeted for days and with Paul, never at all. And then there’s the killing. If the rule is to not let the ghost catch up to you, because it will kill you, then the beach scene with the ghost lifting up Jay’s hair makes no sense at all. This movie has a great bunch of opening scenes that establish the rules, but then it doesn’t stick to its own rules during the course of the film. That ends up becoming a major problem.