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IT FOLLOWS is the new HALLOWEEN

Posted on April 3rd, 2015
Posted on April 3rd, 2015

by Coop Cooper

In 1978, director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill set out to make a low-budget horror film called “The Babysitter Murders” which had a very simple, yet chilling premise. The movie was eventually re-titled “Halloween” and became a cult phenomenon. “It Follows” may have achieved something similar to the magic of the original “Halloween” by mixing the old style with the new, but it runs the risk of getting lost in the poorly-managed sprawl of low budget horror.

Maika Monroe stars as Jay, an aimless post-teen and a dreamer who has romantic ideals about love as she hangs out with her similarly-minded, loyal clique of friends. She meets Hugh (Jake Weary) who seems to fit her criteria and after a night of intimacy, Hugh drugs her and ties her down to a chair in an abandoned, open space. When she awakes, Hugh explains that he has been supernaturally cursed by sleeping with a previous girl and out of necessity, he has passed it on to Jay. After proving the impossibly reality of the curse, he lays out the rules, lets her go and implores her to sleep with another guy as soon as possible to pass on the curse. If she doesn’t, a supernatural entity will continue to relentlessly pursue her, kill her, then proceed to hunt down and kill everyone down the line of the original infection.

“It Follows” is presented stylistically as a mixture of 80’s John Carpenter horror masterpieces like “Halloween” and “The Fog” blended with 1970’s Italian surreal horror by Lucio Fulci like “The Beyond” and “The House by the Cemetery” and a bit of modern Japanese horror similar to “The Ring” and “The Grudge”. Set in the lower middle-class suburbs of the urban decay of modern Detroit, the millennial characters don’t have any hopes, aspirations or parental guidance. Even the main character Jay monologues about her doomed, preconceived romantic fantasies with her would-be boyfriend a few seconds before things go horribly awry for her.

The most fascinating part of the film besides the style and worthy performances are the ‘basic’ rules of survival…

1. Once your are infected, the evil entity will walk, slowly but at a deliberate pace, towards your location (presumably as the crow flies) without resting or stopping for anything or anyone. If it grabs you, you are as good as dead.

2. It can take the form of strangers, but will imitate friends or family of the victim based on the situation. It does not speak, nor does it have any rational concept of clothing or hygiene which actually helps to identify it.

3. It mostly has the same physical limitations as humans. It can break a window to get into a house but can’t surpass a well-fortified door. Its greatest advantage is that no one can see it except for the currently infected target and anyone who has been previously infected.

There are additional rules, but the most fun part of “It Follows” is the suspense of trying to figure out, along with the main character, the limitations of this demonic stalker. It’s also satisfying to see Jay and her friends try to set traps and execute different escape techniques to learn how this fiend operates.

Not since “Halloween” have I seen a horror film so effectively use an out-of-focus background or open, well-lit spaces as a setting for terror and dread. When the victim decides a city park, under a street light with a 360-degree view is their best defense strategy, you know it’s going to be a scary wait. A great horror film is one that sparks your imagination (a reason why zombie survival movies are so popular even now) and after “It Follows”, I found myself trying to come up with scenarios in which to win against this unstoppable demon. Could I trap it in an underground bunker, lock it in, cover it up with earth and feel safe the rest of my life? If I went overseas, could it cross an ocean? Is it smart enough to eventually sneak onto a bus, train or jetliner? Could I create an app that calculates its rate of speed versus the last GPS coordinates where I saw it and the app would calculate the minimum time it would take for me to leave my current location safely? So many possibilities to ponder best left for the eventual sequel.

Does “It Follows” make a statement? Is it a cautionary allegory about sexually transmitted diseases? Is it about future doom stemming from the lack of concern about the consequences exhibited by the disaffected and promiscuous millennials? Is it a commentary about the eventually of death and coming to terms with it? Is it about the inevitable urban decay of Detroit? You be the judge.

“It Follows” bombed at the box office last weekend (when it opened) but it was never meant for the theater market. It’s got a few plot holes, but it will find cult status on Redbox and Netflix, well enough to facilitate sequels which will expand upon the concept and capitalize on its merits. Against other critics, in 2000 I gave a glowingly positive review to a film called “Final Destination”, saying it was a refreshing new reboot of the horror genre. I was vindicated. I said the same about “The Purge” in 2013. Vindicated. “It Follows” could be next.

4 out of 5 stars.

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