We all remember the dire warnings from health class or worried parents: If you have unprotected sex, you run the risk of coming down with an STD.
Well, for the kids in the movie It Follows, the itch of crabs or the need for antibiotics would be a welcomed distraction from the STW they risk by having sex with the wrong partner.
STW? Sexually transmitted wraith.
It Follows tells the story of Jay, a sexually active late-teen who finally succumbs to the charms of her newest beau Hugh, only to learn that not only did she accept his penis, but she also accepted a curse that involves a plodding ghost trying to kill her.
As long as Jay stays alive, the ghost leaves Hugh alone. The best advice, he suggests, is for Jay to pass the curse onto someone else as soon as possible, hooking up like he did with her. If the wraith gets Jay, it then comes after Hugh and then continues up the line of transmission.
Complicating life is the fact that only the cursed can see the wraith, which can transform from a urinating half-naked mutilated woman to a senior citizen to someone you know. Thus, even when Jay enlists her sister and friends to help her, they are largely useless other than as a source of comfort and uncontrolled screaming and running.
Now, I don’t like horror movies. I am a jumpy person by nature, and so sudden surprises bother me. Thus, when my horror-loving friends suggested we see It Follows, I was reluctant. But I am trying to expand my genre repertoire and so joined in.
As it worked out, there was no reason to worry.
(HEREAFTER THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.)
Throughout the entire 100 minutes of the movie, I jumped only once, and as it turned out, at nothing that had anything to do with the story.
None of the appearances of the wraith (okay, maybe one) were particularly startling or unexpected. And aside from the musical cues to the audience to become anxious—music that would not have been out of place in any classic 80s horror—the movie offered little suspense. And after more than a few musical feints, even that ceased to make me uneasy.
Aggravating the lack of tension was an excruciatingly plodding pace to the story, which triggered more yawns in me than shudders. The only thing slower than the pace was the plodding approach of the wraith.
My friends—the horror aficionados—suggested that this gave the demon (and the movie) a relentless feel…the wraith was often shown slowly approaching from a distance in wide-angle shots. But to me, the movie was relentless in the way a train travelling at one mile per hour is unrelenting.
It will crush you…eventually…once it reaches you…assuming you don’t simply step off the tracks.
What I will admit was relentless was that truthfully the story could only end one way. (I am trying not to tell you how the movie ends.)
Because the wraith will always move up the chain of transmission, Jay is fated to die. Even if she passes the curse onto another. She will die. It is simply a matter of when.
The writer and/or director essentially painted themselves into a corner from the outset.
This is not to say that the kids only run away, but they also had no information to help stop the wraith…if possible. And no one seemed interested in determining what is was or why it was.
This is yet another reason why I could not engage in the movie. It gave me nothing to do but wait, and watch the kids attempt roughly the same actions time and again.
Given the nature of the beast—horror movies, that is—the performances were solid. The acting was quite good—Maika Monroe as Jay was quite effective—and the relationships between the characters felt real. Aside from a few subtextual set-ups that had no payoff, most of the character interactions satisfied.
Sadly, the actors were completely let down by the writer and/or director.
With the wraith largely incapable of harming her sister or friends (it only wants the cursed), all of Jay’s (our hero’s) actions were self-serving. Simply put, Jay did everything not to die.
And while this is understandable and even compelling early on—again, Maika Monroe is very likeable—it eventually lacks nobility. There were no other stakes, and how do you raise the stakes from gonna die? After a very short period, I was ready for Jay to die simply so my friends and I could get to the pub.
I appreciate that I am in the minority here (and at the pub).
It Follows will inexorably spawn a sequel—no doubt entitled It Still Follows—and possibly a third (Yep, Still Following) and fourth (Hunh, Where’d It Go? Oh, Jesus, There It Is) chapter.
For me, however, I’ll just go back and watch Poltergeist (the original, thank you) and have nightmares about clown dolls.
Now, if you want a good (and shorter) counterpoint to my antipathy for It Follows, check out a post written by another friend Danny F Santos, which can be found here.