To describe It Follows as wasted potential would only be scratching the surface. Here you have a setup reminiscent of other classics akin to The Ring, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and even Halloween to an extent, and they’ve managed almost completely squander a good idea. In this critic’s opinion, contrary to the mixed to high praise It Follows has received already, it falls painfully short after attempting to do justice to past horror tropes.
How exactly? Let’s look at the plot.
The movie is about a curse that requires anyone who has it to pass it on to someone else by having sex with them. First of all, I’ll buy that purely because it sounds like nouveaux horror for the millennials and it is understood that times are getting more edgy for this genre. Second, before going further, to give the movie a fair chance, you have to ignore any STD or safe sex-preaching messages you might be getting already; it is a horror movie after all—suspend reality for the moment.
Anyhoo, the curse itself involves a malicious, stalking entity that walks towards the person in question. Should It reach them, they will inevitably meet a grotesque end. Although It can’t talk per se, It can change its appearance to become anyone. That’s always freaky because you never know who it is. Score one for the movie. But what got me hooked personally was the fact that you can pass on the curse, but if It kills that person It comes back to kill you and then whoever’s next in line. Our young female lead Jay (Maika Monroe) becomes the unfortunate victim of the walking nightmare and does all she can to escape It with the help of her friends.
Before I bash this one, let me say what the movie does well.
Right from the beginning, the music is superb. It sets the haunting mood brilliantly, always leaving you with the suspense of the unknown and girding to jump. Although not as iconic as Halloween’s, this flick would be stuck in B-movie limbo without it. Dare I say it’s better than the movie itself?
And then there’s the editing. The filmmakers try to be artsy at times using the 360 spin shot a lot, but besides that dizzy view, it accomplishes its frightening purpose nevertheless. Additionally, the camera only holds on certain things just long enough to make its point. Remember the Ring’s infamous video tape with its sporadically changing spooky images? Exactly like that, only in this movie, it’s as if the camera is just as frightened as our heroine.
****Spoiler alert! Skip to the conclusion now!
That’s where the positives end and my frustration starts.
Back to the plot, it’s a brilliant setup, but the twists are scarce and any creativity they had here feels squandered and left abundant with plot holes. Among the many unanswered questions are:
- WHAT IS IT?
It’s never actually explained beyond a shapeshifting killer. How it kills, you would think, would have a connection to the curse. Let’s say it was a vengeful undead prostitute. Cool, I’m sold. But no. It is very inconsistent with its method of murder. In one instance, someone appears to be killed through sex itself, but later on, It resorts to blunt objects. Shame on me for trying to draw similarities.
- Where did It come from and how did it all start?
I’m giving this movie way too much credit.
- Why is It killing people?
No, seriously, why? Without a backstory, the audience is clueless. I appreciate the filmmakers wanting us to piece things together ourselves, but It Follows gives you nothing except the current victim. Now they did manage to get around this little detail by having the original man saying he didn’t know anything else about it; it’s just that far down the line. Lucky, lucky, but that’s coming off as weak to me.
- Why does sex pass on the curse?
Because movies have a tendency to do whatever they want and make up their own logic. But without explaining it, audiences will do the same thing. Isn’t it adorable seeing those other old-fashioned critics splurging their sex criticism whilst mounted upon a conservative high horse?
- How does It find the accursed and move so fast?
That is the million dollar question. I mean, this thing has a homing device or something. How the heck is It tracking them down? Jay and her friends are driving far away and hiding in the obscurest places, yet It still manages to burst the door down in minutes. It’s creepy, don’t get me wrong, but this thing does it better than Samara’s convenient T.V. tuning.
This prompted a new theory: what if the movie’s world is actually Jay’s or someone else’s nightmare? Oh, what a juicy idea that’d be. Sadly, we never find out the truth.
- What really happens at the end?
What happens after her friend gets it and they stay together? Will they be outrunning this thing for the rest of their lives? Do they ever defeat It? Going to the pool in the end I thought was genius. I thought, “Maybe it’ll drown. Maybe they’ll shock it to death.” How about this: it gets shot in the head and disappears in a cloud of blood in the water. My flabbergasted audience and I didn’t see that one coming. Oh, but it gets even better with its cliffhanger. What’s following them at the end? Could it be? All right, all right. I admit that was done fairly well and ambiguous endings are bound to happen with horror-themed media. Accept it for what it is. The mystery surrounding It’s demise still boggles and frustrates the mind without any solid resolution, I’ll have you know.
Even I have to admit; It Follows does do many things well—just not as well as it could have. Is it scary? At times, yes. You’re essentially watching the group being stalked and you don’t know when It’ll appear next, where It’ll be next, or what It’ll be next. They’re your typical horror clichés, yes, but given the right scene they’re done right. With that being said, you’ll occasionally feel like the movie’s dragging to make an acceptable runtime. Ah, but then there’s that incredible score to keep you alert. Fortunately like that of Psycho, the suspense constantly builds, and the scares, while few, have great payoffs.
I wouldn’t consider It Follows a classic just yet. There are just too many things that have me scratching my head about it to put it under that classification. A cult classic will more than likely be its fate. Nevertheless, it’s worth a good first-time viewing in the theater with people that love to get scared. Just expect to leave as confused as I was.
Honestly, I do hope It returns. It’d make a better series than a standalone movie.