A masterpiece in menace — ‘It Follows’
When Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her boyfriend, she wakes up to find herself tied to a wheelchair. He has something, he tells her. It follows him. Now, he’s passed it on to her. It can look like anyone -- a stranger, a loved one. Like those dreams where we seem to run in sand, it only ever walks, but it always catches up. The only way she can rid herself of it is to transmit it to someone else by sleeping with him.
This is a horror villain passed along as an STD, and that’s a coldly effective conceit in a movie that repeatedly frames its images to make the viewer feel like a Peeping Tom.
Where are Jay’s parents during all of this? It’s a little unclear -- her mother is the only one around and she’s always at the bottom of a bottle of wine. These kids -- much as teenagers in the real world -- are terrified that their worries will be laughed off by adults. As a result of circumstance and their own decisions, they are on their own, forced to face this new horror and their own trauma without a real adult connection to bolster and support them.
That’s the most important rule of “It Follows.” If the kids feel it, it’s part of how the world around them is written and filmed. When does “It Follows” even take place? Jay dresses and decorates her room as if it’s the 70s, her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) stepped out of a 90s wardrobe, and their friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi) looks like she rolled out of bed and threw something on just this morning. Yara is constantly reading from a futuristic looking Kindle and a cell phone is pulled out by another character, but outside of this, everyone’s dependent on cheap, plastic, landlines from the 80s. Cars are from the 70s, the movies they watch from the 50s or before.
There’s a difference between not taking place in any era and taking place in all of them at once. “It Follows” spans across every decade that cinematic horror has existed. The world these characters inhabit feels real, it feels consequential, but so many of the markers that anchor us in horror films are deliberately erased. It’s like watching a dream with all the fingerprints that make it yours removed. You don’t feel like you belong in it, and so you become a voyeur of all that happens.
“Scary” isn’t the operative word here. “Dread” feels more appropriate. If horror movies embody the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling like something’s in the dark there, standing just out of sight and waiting, then most horror movies are about the jump -- the moment the thing in the shadows leaps out at you.
“It Follows” is about anticipating that jump. It’s about staring into the shadows and the shadows staring back. It’s about the ebb and flow of that moment when you’re just not sure what’s there.
There’s dread, yes, but the longer you hang there doing nothing, making no decision, the more you learn to live with that dread.
We all feel those moments in our lives, when we’re faced with some kind of impending doom and procrastinate, refuse to believe, refuse to act, inventing some sort of illusion that everything’s all right until it’s too late. There’s a draw to do nothing -- no, it’s more than a draw. There’s a temptation to continue sitting in the dark and staring at the shadows. The shadows don’t jump and you don’t move; you both wait. This is horror all the more disturbing because each of us understands the impulse to settle in and pretend it’s all going to be fine. Why? Just because, we tell ourselves. It has to be.
This is the terror in “It Follows.” It burns so patiently, forcing its characters to face a shifting villain in the movie, and its audience to face what we dread in our own heads. It can be an empowering act, but for some viewers it may trigger the traumas they’ve survived.
This is a special film, a stunningly executed concept. It is among the more unpredictable, meaningful, and dangerous movies I’ve ever seen. The small, indie horror is the first masterpiece of the year.
I’ve seen countless cheap-shock movies that failed to stick with me even 10 minutes after I’d left the theater. I’m sick of them. I’ve rarely seen a movie filled with more insidious dread, and believe me, this one clings to you like a second skin for days. “It Follows” goes the title. It really, really does.
It’s rated a hard R for violence, nudity, sexuality, and language.
Gabe Valdez grew up in Chicago, went to college in Massachusetts, is a former news reporter in Floresville, Texas, and worked in politics in Oregon. He writes and directs films when he can find the time. Reviews, views, photos and more can be found at http://basilmarinerchase.wordpress.com. Email him at email@example.com.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
A creepy Halloween party appetizer (October 19, 2016)
Applying for Social Security (October 19, 2016)
Chili Cook-off to benefit Wilson County youth (October 19, 2016)
DRT joins Heritage Music Festival (October 19, 2016)
DRT to meet Oct. 24 in Kerrville (October 19, 2016)
Enjoy Harvest Festival in Marion (October 19, 2016)
Enter Pecan Bake Show (October 19, 2016)
Little Golden Books (October 19, 2016)
Make plans for Halloween fun and fall fests (October 19, 2016)
Meeting the needs of the community: St. Vincent de Paul (October 19, 2016)
R&B legend opens Carver season Oct. 29 (October 19, 2016)
Readers share their spooky tales, part two (October 19, 2016)
Road Runners plan Oct. 22 group run (October 19, 2016)
See country legends Oct. 22 (October 19, 2016)
Try your hand at square dancing (October 19, 2016)
Turn yard waste into gardener’s gold (October 19, 2016)
Baptist church to ring in 100 years (October 12, 2016)
Church plans Junk and Treasure Sale (October 12, 2016)
Comal Country Music Show is Oct. 18 (October 12, 2016)
Davy Crockett (October 12, 2016)
Enjoy fried chicken in Poth Oct. 23 (October 12, 2016)
Enjoy this flashy winter resident (October 12, 2016)
Join in the 2016 Rosary Crusade (October 12, 2016)
National Charity League plans celebration (October 12, 2016)
New program increases student knowledge of E-cigarette dangers (October 12, 2016)
Play bunco in La Vernia Oct. 22 (October 12, 2016)
Pondering a poignant letter from the past (October 12, 2016)
Save the date for Oct. 22 March for Life (October 12, 2016)
Should you redeem old savings bonds? (October 12, 2016)
Show Barn Cook-off approaching (October 12, 2016)
Sutherland Springs Old Town Day (October 12, 2016)
The business of aging grows more complex (October 12, 2016)
Try your luck at China Grove Lions Club Casino Night (October 12, 2016)
Atascosa County Craft Show seeks vendors (October 5, 2016)
Beautify your landscape with cacti (October 5, 2016)
Experience Oktoberfest in San Antonio (October 5, 2016)
Gilded peanuts and golden memories — recalling past Floresville Peanut Festivals (October 5, 2016)
Japan Fest set for Oct. 16 (October 5, 2016)
Meal service delivery options for seniors who don’t cook (October 5, 2016)
Oktoberfest comes to Floresville Oct. 15 (October 5, 2016)
Past Pirate champions will never be forgotten (October 5, 2016)
Readers share their ‘spooky’ tales (October 5, 2016)
Sacred Springs PowWow (October 5, 2016)
Shorter teapot (October 5, 2016)
Sinatra tribute comes to Kerrville (October 5, 2016)
Stockdale librarian updates Blue Bonnet Club members (October 5, 2016)
Sunnyside 4-H Bake Sale (October 5, 2016)
Time for turkey in Cestohowa (October 5, 2016)