Sunday, March 29, 2015

it follows

It's been an up-and-down decade for horror--from a smattering of retro throwback indie gems to James Wan's slick, entertaining multiplex fillers to wimpy forgettable boogedy pics like The Quiet Ones and Ouija. David Robert Mitchell's It Follows fits in this spectrum awkwardly really--in fact, it may appeal less to horror fans and more to some cineastes (its buzz began at Cannes) who may sneer at the horror genre. Though horror fans may relish a lot of the references on display.

Mitchell made his debut with The Myth of the American Sleepover (which I reviewed here)--a languid, late-summer teen movie which was frothy, shallow lake-surface deep but full of indelible imagery and style. In It Follows, Mitchell and his cinematographer Mike Gioulakis harken back to vintage John Carpenter, notably the anamorphic chiller Halloween, in creating a memorable, tree-lined suburban Detroit backdrop to an eerie story of non-supervised cursed teenagers (who are of the gawky, leisurely Linklater-Boyhood's third act variety; not the hyper stereotypes of modern slashers). The actors, led by a striking Maika Monroe (The Guest), solidly deliver. I wish I hadn't known what the curse was before seeing the film, as much of it rides on its surprise and its eventual bizarre, fever dream logic. 

Some clunky plot deviations and false climaxes ensue (an evocative, elaborately set-up swimming pool Cat People-esque sequence concludes unsatisfactorily) but the film often sets an incredible mood (also thanks to Disasterpeace's ominous and mesmerizing score). In fact the music of the film, while definitely Carpenter-inspired, is also its own entity. Whereas John Carpenter's iconic film score for Halloween was tight as a drum in the unusual 5/4 time signature, Disasterpeace goes for sprawling sonicscapes. The scores could reflect the feel of their respective pictures: Halloween is economical, streamlined fright fare whilst It Follows is more Sofia Coppola (particularly The Virgin Suicides--another moody, vintage--to an almost fetishistic degree--suburban Michigan misery piece)--a languid, muddily-plotted nightmare with stabs of slambag horror. 

As with any horror flick, many are already attempting to dissect its potential metaphors (STDs, consumerism, et al). There is much there that likely rewards multiple views. In Myth, Mitchell's teens never texted. Can the title itself be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the primary young adult (and for some, adult) obsession of today (how many followers do you have?)? It can't be an accident that a cute little peach, seashell-shaped e-reader is one of the few items that seems of this time or of a near-future. Otherwise, what most of America has thrown away since the end of the twentieth-century is in nearly every frame of the film (a tulip-shaped lamp, porn mags, outdated bath fixtures, tube TVs, typewriters, landline cord phones, clunker cars and station wagons--not unlike Micheal Myers' mental ward's). ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg

1 comment:

  1. This is probably the first horror film in a very, very long time that I am actually excited to see.