Friday, December 18, 2015

I'm walkin' yes indeed and I'm talkin' 'bout you and me

David Robert Mitchell's It Follows is a horror movie. It's meant to be scary and it succeeds. Still, if there's such a thing as a typical horror movie this isn't it.

The film takes place in an affluent-looking suburb of the not-so-affluent Detroit. It's not stated outright but my guess would be Grosse Pointe.

Maika Monroe, who looks something like a younger Reese Witherspoon, plays Jay, a college student home for one on break. She meets a strong silent type who calls himself Hugh, is taken with him, and goes out on a date with the boy. When he starts acting strangely at the movies they go back to his car and have sex. She passes out - with a little help from Hugh and chloroform - and when she comes to he's tied her up. He explains that he's passed on something to her that will always be following her. This thing could look like anybody, and will strike without warning, so she always has to be on guard.

The fact that the central premise involves a venereal boogeyman is primarily interesting for the somewhat comical jockeying it provokes among the male characters. She can pass the curse along the same way she got it, and at least a couple of guys think "worth it!" But there's a dizzy paranoia here that never quite lets go.

Part of this has to do with the way It Follows is filmed. The camera is almost always moving and most shots are some distance from the characters, who frequently aren't onscreen when they're speaking. Take a drink every time you see a close-up of someone's face and you'll get a buzz going. Do the same in the average feature film and you'll die of alcohol poisoning. The cumulative effect is that the viewer is always searching people out and reassessing them, just like Jay has to.

Mitchell has a painter's eye. The look and the feel of the movie exemplify suburban surrealism. Not really in the David Lynch sense. Where Lynch's films tend to suggest a curdled 1950s, this suburb is more timeless. It's like Eric Fischl's paintings come to life.


susan said...

Your description of the film makes it sound interesting; my inability to watch scary and gory modern horror movies means it's highly unlikely I'll ever have the courage to watch it. While reading your review I was reminded of a Japanese film we did see (twice!) called The Ring. Maybe you've seen it yourself and, if so, you'll likely recall the premise was about something terrible being passed on to unsuspecting young people. In that case it was whoever watched a mysterious video would die in seven days time. It was very moody and quite frightening enough for my taste. I can't quite believe I actually sat through it twice - but neither time did I have my eyes open every minute.

Your reference to Eric Fischl made me look up his paintings and you're right that they're very surreal and intense in a way that's somewhat disturbing. Some of them are actually very beautiful but I wouldn't be hanging one over the couch (if I could afford one).

Ben said...

This one doesn't really have a lot of gore. There are some shocks, though, and a general sense of unease. View (or not) at your own discretion. I did find it somewhat spellbinding, though.

I haven't seen The Ring yet. Now that you've reminded me I probably will. Did Jerry have to do any coaxing on that one?

Yes, Fischl is an eerie painter. He seems to be projecting dark Freudian stuff outward a lot of the time. Strangely enough I remember seeing a book of his paintings with an introduction by Steve Martin.