I saw It Follows last Thursday but haven’t had the chance to review it until now. I’ve been busy, and I’ve been trying to sort out just how I feel about it. After thinking about it for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that It Follows is a well made, effectively creepy movie that’s a victim of its own hype and maybe not as smart as it wants to be.
There’s so many bad and/or formulaic horror movies out there that almost any horror movie that comes along doing something arty or different arrives with a lot of hype. Sometimes I find the hype spot-on (The Babadook is as brilliant as everyone says it is), other times I’m disappointed (Let the Right One In is a perfectly fine movie but lacking in the horror department, particularly in comparison to its source novel). It Follows falls into the later category for me, which is not to say there aren’t things about it that are great. The soundtrack by Disasterpiece is perfect, and director David Robert Mitchell knows where to place his camera to stage a scene with tension. The monster, a shapeshifter only visible to those infected by a mysterious STD that will find and kill you unless you spread the STD on, is a completely original idea with the feel of an ancient urban legend.
Where It Follows doesn’t come together for me is on the level of metaphor. The idea that spreading the STD on buys you time is an interesting ethical dilemma (especially when some of the characters are willing to be recipients) but is also completely divorced from anything in real life. It doesn’t fully work as a generalized metaphor for sexual anxieties either, falling apart by the rather silly climax and an ambiguous resolution that’s unsatisfactory in either interpretation of the events.
The opening scene encapsulates It Follows‘ great strengths and great failings. It’s eye-catching and attention grabbing. The music escalates and recedes at all the right points and in not knowing what’s going on the scene manages to be scarier than it would be with an explanation. But then there’s the prominent yet meaningless symbolism. Setting the scene at the address 1492, the number prominently displayed, implies that there’s going to be some message layered in about America, about the Native Americans, about imperialism, about something… and then there’s nothing of the sort after that. It’s a detail designed to get Room 237-style theories going rather than one that connects to anything actually there in the story itself. And too much of the story itself feels like it’s constructed out of incomplete metaphors begging for wild interpretations without the substance to back them up. Taken as just a fun creepy horror movie, I liked It Follows well enough. But its lack of follow-through on the various issues it brings up and then drops prevents it from greatness.