Friday, August 7, 2015

The Strange Review: It Follows

So a few weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure to sit down and watch the much ballyhooed new cult classic "It Follows". I've heard Chris Stuckman and Jeremy Jahns review this film and they both claimed that despite not being scared, they enjoyed it. There's something to be said when a reviewers declare a movie to be the "Scariest film ever!" and other hyperbolic things like that. I'm gonna come right out and say it, much like "The Babadook", "It Follows" didn't scare me AT ALL, not in the slightest bit. That's not me being macho or putting on a facade, the film just wasn't scary and declaring this to be a scary movie in my humble opinion is mismarketing, it's actually a Thriller.

For those of you who don't know, "It Follows" tells the story of Jamie (or Jay, as she's called in the film) who is cursed to be followed by "It". "It" can take the shape of anyone and will do anything It needs to get close to It's victims. "It Follows" Jay as she tries to escape this curse.

This paragraph will be no spoiler as there is no way to talk about the film in depth without spoiling it. "It Follows" gets some brownie points for being filmed in my home town of Detroit, Michigan and actually making a reference to it in the film, but ultimately, it's not scary and my overall thoughts on the film is "It's not bad." and that's not entirely good. Saying "It's not bad." for me is like going to a restaurant, ordering a turkey sandwich and getting ham sandwich instead; Sure, the ham sandwich will do the same thing as the turkey sandwich, but it ain't what you ordered. This isn't to be entirely negative either, parts of the film worked, just the parts that REALLY needed to work unfortunately didn't. So if you're interested in an interesting movie that won't exactly scare you but entertain you for awhile, "It Follows" is entertaining, but nothing else really. And now for the REAL meat and potatoes...

The REAL star of "It Follows" is the eponymous "It". "It" is the MOST interesting thing in the movie. I'd like to dissect a few scenes that more or less to explain what I think "It" is capable of. Jeff stated that "It" is slow but "It's" not dumb and it will do anything and take on the form of anyone to get close to "It's" victim. While that maybe true, I think "It" is much more psychologically in tuned with "It's" victims and a few scenes reveal this. In the beginning of the film, Jeff & Jamie are at a movie theatre playing "The Trade Game", I won't go into details about the game, but Jeff selects a little boy as the person he'd like to trade places with. When Jeff sees the eponymous "It", it appears to him as a little girl in a yellow dress. The 2nd time Jeff thinks he sees "It" is again, a young girl holding a soccer ball.

Jeff appears to have an affinity for children and "It" became aware of this and has taken on the form of a children to get close to him. So why did "It" take the form of mostly women when "It" came after Jamie? I believe "It" takes on the form of the emotional trauma of "It's" victim. The first time we see "It" it appears as a naked woman, interestingly enough, this is immediately after Jamie has sex and is tied up and "exposed" just as "It" is exposed or naked, defenseless. Because at the moment, Jamie felt naked, exposed and defenseless. This is made more clear when Jamie sees "It" in her kitchen and it appears as woman in torn clothing. If you listen in the scene before this when Jamie is telling the police about her encounter with Jeff, we catch the tail end of that scene and the police officer says "It was consensual?", implying that it wasn't rape, but Jamie felt like she was raped because Jeff betrayed her. So when "It" appears, it shows up as a woman in torn clothing.

"It" also takes the form of a very tall man when Jamie is in enclosed spaces, like her room and the garage on the beach. The Tall Man is attached to Jamie's emotional state of feeling helpless as this imposing thing closes in on her. The only incarnation of "It" I can't really explain is the old woman and the naked man on the roof, I'll just chalk those up to variety. I love the fact that despite no one else being able to see "It" except for the cursed, "It" can interact with the physical world and cannot walk through walls. It does appear to have some teleportation abilities, although they're fairly limited and not much is explained about how long it takes for "It" to get you from say...Michigan to California, but I doubt it'd take days.

Anyways moving on to the problems with the film. There are a few problems but one of my main ones was what "It" does when "It" catches you. In the opening of the film we see the aftermath of what "It" does but when "It" attacks Greg and we finally see what happens, it's...less than inspiring..."It" apparently dry humps him to death. Had Jamie just opened the door, screamed and left, that'd have been much more powerful than actually seeing it and being disappointed. Another disappointment (although admittedly, I'm not sure how to solve) is how the curse is passed on. Sex is such an awkward delivery device but within the context of the film and the themes, I'm loathed to removing it. I guess I need to talk about the theme.

So the theme of the film is tied to water. Essentially, in my opinion, the film is about the unsettling aftermath of sex, or rather the uncertainty of the aftermath of sex and water is basically symbolism for purity. The reason I think its about sex is mostly because of Paul's unrequited feelings for Jamie, which although is sexual, Paul genuinely desires to help Jamie. While Jamie has had sex with Jeff & Greg, but Jeff lied to her and Greg ended up dead, at the end of the film, Jamie and Paul form a relationship in a more or less mutual acceptance of their fate, looming in the background. The water is purity. Notice that when The Woman In Torn Clothes appears to Jamie, Water is leaking out of her, essentially her purity and as I said before, Jamie felt RAPED, essentially impure. And notice, what does Jamie ask for when she's in her room, she says "I need water!".

Also notice, despite being able to follow "It's" victims anywhere, "It" apparently has an aversion to water and won't willingly go in it unless forced to. "It" spent the majority of time trying to kill Jamie while in the water or forcing her to get out of the water. Because in the water, she was pure and in order to kill her, she needs to be impure. Hope that clears up the water and everything else. Anyways, this brings me to another issue I have with the film is that Yara was basically a useless character. Jamie's sister, Paul & Greg were pretty much the only characters that needed to be in the film. Also what exactly Paul was hoping to accomplish in the climax of the film is still a mystery to me. Can't say I really cared much about the characters with the exception of Paul, but I mostly felt sorry for him because Sarah & Yara constantly emasculated him at every opportunity.

Anyways, "It Follows" is an interesting movie and a nice study on how to weave in symbolism without beating someone over the head with it. But as a scary movie, a movie that's gonna keep you up at night thinking about it, it fails utterly and completely in my opinion. I can't quite pinpoint just what people find scary about this movie. The implications of the film is scary but if I can't put myself in the shoes of the protagonist or believe that such a scenario can happen to me then I'm basically just watching some messed up crap happen to someone and not projecting myself into the film, and ultimately that what I need in a horror movie and this just didn't do that for me. I give "It Follows" a C-. Good premise but the execution left MUCH to be desired. Until next time, ya'll.

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