July 5, 2015

Blu-ray Review: It Follows

Do you ever feel like someone is following you? Get that creepy feeling up the back of your spine? I would be really surprised if you haven't. After watching It Follows, you will likely experience that sensation. It is not really a pleasant one, a sense of dread that you cannot shake. It is not unlike the spectre of death. It is inevitable, there is no escaping it, no talking to it, no bargaining, it just keeps coming. With It Follows, you get a visual representation of death, a metaphor for STDs. It is creepy and you have no escape. That creepy feeling has followed it right out of the theater and into your home.

It Follows has a very simple concept. “It” follows you until one of two things happens: it catches you and kills you or you have sex to pass it on to someone else. That is pretty much it. The great thing about it is that you can read some different ideas into it, like “it” being a metaphor for an STD, or impending adulthood, pretty much anything that cannot be escaped, perhaps even death...

If strip away the metaphors, you are left with a seriously creepy and atmospheric tale of a young girl who has sex with a guy she is dating, is kidnapped by him, and then learns she is being targeted by this “it” and the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on (by having sex with someone). Until she is able to do that, “it” will follow her, always walking, steadily approaching, never stopping, never wavering. The one advantage you have is that it only walks, never runs, and doesn’t drive, just remember it will be relentless in coming towards you wherever you are.

It Follows has a timeless quality. In many ways it is reminiscent of John Carpenter's Halloween. The relentless nature of the killer, the synth driven score by Disasterpeace (which reminds me of a mix of Carpenter and Charles Bernstein), the absence of any parental oversight, the poor decision making in the face of near death, the slow, methodical pace, everything adds up to an effective horror that eschews the in your face gore or unwieldy exposition. Horror stripped down to its essence..

This is not a movie for everyone, and that is all right. It is, however, one for me. The acting is very naturalistic, sure, they make some bad decisions, but who is to say we would do any better in the same situation? You may be thinking clearer as you watch the movie, but you are not facing death. This is true for pretty much any movie. Remember that you are watching a movie and the characters are in the movie and do not know they are in a movie. This is a mistake many people make. We are allowed to be level headed, remember, characters in a movie are confronted with things that make them irrational, this happens here and it makes sense.

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell does an exceptional job building atmospheric dread and creating fear in a very stripped down approach and very little in the way of gore. This movie is almost anti-sensationalistic. It does not care to artificially create excitement or shock you awake with a jump scare, it allows its horror gently seep into your pores, infect the area around you, and create a state of paranoia you cannot escape. To that end, it does not explain a lot, and leaves things there for your mind to fill in the blanks, a puzzle with a few missing pieces, you know what should be there, but is that what it really is? Right down to the final moments, It Follows.

There is something about this movie that just works so well. It is told from the position of an unreliable narrator. You may think you are watching from a position of omniscience, or at least that when characters speak, it is the whole story. If you believe that, you are dead wrong. The director has even stated that you are not getting the full story. A good example is when that one guy explains the “rules.” Questions linger about how he knows them if he was not told. I believe the implication is he figured out what he could on his own, making them somewhat accurate, but not complete. I do not believe this “it” is meant to be known, explained, or figured out, just avoided.

It Follows is a little weird. It eschews the penchant for Saw-styled blood and guts or the jump scares of the recent string of haunting movies. It fashions a new direction inspired by the past that plays on the idea of what you can’t see being scary. The minimalist approach is a winning one, doing a lot with a little. Think about the different ways the movie can be interpreted. I found it to be a truly frightening experience.

It is a movie that allows for interpretation of its symbols and metaphors, but it also does not require it. It Follows invites you to read as much or as little into it as you want to. The basic format and structure proves to be more than effective in this regard. Watch, enjoy, be scared. Just remember... It Follows!

The Blu-ray release features the movie in its original aspect ratio of 2.4:1 and it looks just as you would want it to. Detail is fantastic, everything is nice and sharp. In short, it looks great on Blu-ray. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and it sounds great, in particular, the score from Disasterpeace sounds amazing.

In the extras side of the coin is a gallery of poster art and the trailer. There is an interview with music composer Disasterpeace. Rounding it out is a critics commentary led by Scott Weinberg with some call in guests, there is a lot of good information in this track.

Overall, It Follows is an amazing film, unique and fresh as it is familiar. Is it for everyone? No, but it is certainly worth everyone trying on to see if it fits them. It is a wonderful film.

Highly Recommended.

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