It Follows (6 out of 10) – Directed and written by David Robert Mitchell; Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Lucardi, Jake Weary, and Daniel Zovatto; Not Rated; 100 minutes.
“Park City at Midnight” is the place to go to check out bad-ass action and horror movies at Sundance. Past entries have included “The Babadook”, “The Raid”, “Dead Snow” and “V/H/S” just to name a few. While some of those films were more effective and better than others, everyone who goes to Sundance and loves those types of movies always looks forward to what the new year will bring. “It Follows” easily fits in with its horror movie brethren, and while it is fun and freaky, it suffers from a lackluster ending that sours the whole thing.
Jay (Maika Monroe) lives on the good side of the tracks in Detroit and goes out for the night with Hugh (Jake Weary) her hunky boyfriend. The two of them end the date with a romantic encounter in his car, only to have him immediately chloroform and kidnap her. She wakes in an abandoned building tied to a wheelchair, scared and demanding answers. Hugh informs her that he had been cursed by an evil spirit that has been stalking him since a one-night-stand, but now that he has slept with Jay, the curse has been passed on. The evil spirit will forever follow her until it finally reaches and kills her or she sleeps with someone else and passes the “disease” on to a new victim. Jay enlists the help of her friends in an attempt to destroy the entity before it can kill any more people, but will she be able to actually rid herself of such an incredible evil without putting any more innocents or those she loves in danger?
“It Follows” definitely has one of the best and creepiest monsters to be found in pretty much any horror movie of the last few years. The fact that it can take on the shape of any person, and that it is always slowly just walking along kept me on my toes the entire time since it could be pretty much anyone on the screen. Any time I saw someone in the background, I wondered if it had finally caught up to Jay and was about to take her life. This constant sense of dread permeates every scene and is completely inescapable.
The characters are actually intelligent too, and don’t fall to the standard horror movie tropes I’m used to seeing. No one trips and falls while trying to get away, they don’t go outside to investigate strange noises, and for the most part, they approach the situation as rationally as could be expected when their friend says she is being chased by an invisible and unstoppable monster. While the Follower can only be seen by Jay, others can interact with it, and they do their best to protect her and defeat it in smart and interesting ways.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell is also a huge fan of the classics, as John Carpenter’s “Halloween” was obviously a huge influence on him for this film. From the panning long shots to the synthesizer soundtrack, this is an updated and loving homage to the king of all horror films. The Follower itself is also reminiscent of Michael Meyers in its never-ending, unstoppable quest to reach the heroine and kill her.
Unfortunately, there are a few problems that are impossible to ignore and really flaw what could have become a classic.
The last fifteen minutes or so are utterly abominable and nearly ruin all that came before. It was obvious that Mitchell wrote himself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to end the damn thing, so instead of giving us a solid finale, he went for a Christopher Nolan-esque vague ending (a la “Inception”) that was neither satisfying nor made any sense. I’m perfectly fine with a fade-to-black that lets the audience figure out things for themselves, but what we got here was just lazy and seemed like he got stuck on the last page of the script the day before they had to film the final scene, and he just said, “screw it!”
I also hate it when horror movies don’t follow their own rules. As I said before, the Follower is creepy because of the fact that it always just shuffles along and no matter how far away the characters go, they know it will always, eventually, show up. Why, then, did they decide to only have that happen when it made sense for the plot? When Hugh finally explains everything about the Follower, he even tells Jay she can drive a few hours away to stay somewhat safe while she figures out what to do since it will take awhile to reach her. That got thrown out the window a few minutes later when she did just that, but it managed to magically show up for a scare. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something that sticks out and pulls people out of the experience.
In the end, “It Follows” is a fun and legitimately scary movie that has some really good scares and jumps, but its extremely problematic ending will keep people from wanting to go back and revisit it. What a shame because this very easily could have become required viewing for every genre fan and for people looking for a great scary movie to watch every Halloween. Instead, it’s just a one and done deal that is completely unsatisfying.