IT KINDA SUCKS
You ever get the feeling that you’re totally alone and unprotected? Struggling against something you cannot begin to understand, that appears to show up everywhere? Have you ever felt like you were the only one who could see the truth, while everyone else simply went on with their lives and ignored the abomination in their midst?
Good. Then you know how we felt when we saw all the positive reviews after we finished watching It Follows.
Look, don’t get us wrong, this is not a terrible horror movie. However, it’s also not the masterpiece everyone seems to think it is either.
It’s okay. It has an interesting concept, but executes it poorly.
And before anyone leaps to the movie’s defence, the concept is not new. We’ve seen the unstoppable, indestructible creature stalking humans before. We’ve seen the idea of a demon being ‘passed down’ to other people before.
The only thing that sets it apart here is that the transfer occurs through sex, and we can’t be certain there’s no movie in which that concept has been explored before.
Allow us to briefly summarize the movie. It opens on a scene in which a girl flees from something invisible. In the end she calls her parents to tell them she loves them and in the next shot we see her mangled corpse. We’ll get into why the fact that her corpse is mangled doesn’t make much sense later.
After this we are introduced to our main character, Jay Height. She has sex with her boyfriend Hugh/Jeff (We learn his actual name later in the movie) and this causes her to become the new target for the demon that was following him. If it catches her, it will kill her and she can try to pass it on to someone else by having sex with another person.
If the demon kills her, it will continue down the line of its previous victims and starting following them again.
Most of the movie is taken up by Jay seeing the demon and freaking out while she runs. Refreshingly, the discussion of whether or not she’s just going crazy is left out and her friends even get pretty clear evidence that something supernatural is happening. This is good, because it saves us from the ‘it’s not real’ discussion we’ve seen in a thousand horror movies by now.
She eventually passes it to a friend, Greg, but he is soon killed by the demon and it goes back to chasing Jay. She and her friends try one last time to kill the demon, before she passes it on to another friend named Paul. And then the movie ends.
Of course, as with any good horror movie, there are a few rules.
The demon can only walk. It never runs. It never even jogs.
It might be slow, but the demon isn’t stupid, so it’s best to always have at least two ways out of a room.
The demon can be knocked down, but it cannot be killed or injured.
The demon can look like anyone, including your loved ones, but it never speaks and barely reacts to anyone but its target.
Nobody but people who are being targeted or have been targeted before can see the demon.
Sounds like a good concept, right? The demon is unstoppable and utterly single-minded in chasing down its target. Not a good combination for said target.
Now pay attention, because we’re going to explain how the movie completely bungles it.
One of the movies main flaw is the characters. They are so ungodly bland and boring. We learn next to nothing about any of them. The movie pretends that we do and throws some of their shared backstory at us after a while, but that falls completely flat when none of the characters have actually established any sort of personality.
What do they like, what do they dislike, what do they want to do with their lives? These are really basic things you need to address when establishing a character.
Because the movie doesn’t, there is absolutely no reason to be invested in Jay’s survival other than because people dying is sad. Why should we care? She does nothing to endear herself to the audience and we have a closer, warmer relationship with our toaster than she does with her friends and family.
We cared more about the girl who gets killed off in the opening scene than we ever did about Jay. Why? Because this girl called home and tearfully told her parents that she loved them, right before she was killed, trying to make sure absolutely nothing was left unsaid. That’s tragic, that’s awful and that’s more personality than Jay ever showed.
Her friends and sister are, sadly, no better.
Take Yara (The girl with the glasses in case you, like us, cared so little you couldn’t remember her name), for example. She is an utterly superfluous character and yet she hangs around for the entire movie. She doesn’t appear to be great friends with Jay, so it’s unclear why she faces the danger, and the only thing she ever does is pretentiously quote literature at the other characters.
The boys are unreasonably interested in fucking Jay, even when they learn that she does indeed have some kind of demon chasing her, and her sister Kelly seems kind of bored by the whole ordeal. She seems interested in Greg at first, but there is no payoff to this after Jay sleeps with him and passes on the demon. No jealousy, no fear that he might now die. Nothing.
Another problem is the cinematography, mainly because of how inconsistent it is. At times there are some great shots, but the movie also lingers far too long on unimportant scenes at times. Furthermore, the movie has the bad habit of making the camera spin in a full, slow circle for no clear reason.
Normally this would be a good way to insert a jumpscare as the camera comes back around and we’re thankful that they don’t in this movie, but that does leave the whole thing without a clear point. Normally a shot like that could be used to highlight a beautiful location and let people take in the details of the set. Here, however, it often happens in completely mundane locations that are not worth examining.
It might be trying to give the audience the idea that the demon is taking in the location while it stalks Jay, but it kind of fails to make that unnerving. Mainly it makes it seem like the demon got very, very drunk the previous night and just kind of came to in this spot, trying to figure out where it actually is.
What is kind of cool is the perspective tricks the movie pulls on you. If you’re going to watch this movie, pay close attention to the background after the demon is introduced. You’ll note that, in some scenes, there is indeed someone walking directly at Jay in the background. Often the characters themselves don’t even notice or react to this person, so it might be the demon approaching or it might just be someone who happened to be heading this way.
Another of the movie’s stronger points is the score. We didn’t always like it, but it’s nicely subdued for most of the movie and it creates tension nicely. Another welcome feature is that it doesn’t rely on sudden, loud noises to startle you.
It Follows has little gore, but it’s got a fair bit of nudity. The demon’s almost always naked or nearly naked and the camera isn’t afraid to focus on it. That’s what makes it so strange that Jay, despite having sex multiple times in the movie, is never seen naked. She always has at least her underwear on, or she’s covered by a blanket.
Of course we’re not suggesting that Maika Monroe had to be naked for this role. We’re not even sure the script ever calls for Jay to appear nude, but if Maika didn’t want to do it, then that’s her choice. However, it seems really strange for this movie to be so prudish about its lead actress when it has no problem showing us the various naked bodies of the demon.
The movie’s main problem, though, is in the story and dialogue. If you have a functioning brain, you probably thought the exact same thing we did when you read that you need to have sex to pass on the demon.
Just bang a prostitute.
Hugh/Jeff’s approach in the movie is utterly baffling. After he has sex with Jay, he drugs her, ties her up and takes her to an abandoned building to wait for the demon so he can show her he’s not crazy and that it’s all real. As plans go in horror movies, this is not a bad one. When she later speaks to the police about the incident, it turns out he was using a fake name to rent a place in town, which turns out to be a total dump.
This left us with so many questions, but we’ll stick to the important ones.
The obvious one is , of course, why he bothered with the relationship at all. We’ve seen people argue that he didn’t want to stick an unsuspecting prostitute with the demon, mostly because it would just kill her and go back to chasing him, but that doesn’t explain anything. He explained it to Jay, why couldn’t he just do that with a random hooker? Stick a note with an explanation between the dollar bills or something.
Also, why did he rent a place here? Did he come here before or after his ex-girlfriend died? It’s heavily implied that it was after, as the place is set up so he can easily keep an eye out and there’s alarms rigged up near the windows, so he knows if someone tries to break in. Clearly he’s still expecting the demon to follow him and if he left after his ex died, that would also explain how he knows the demon starts following previous victims again after killing one. The girl who passed it to him certainly didn’t, considering he says he can’t even remember her name.
Why bother with a relationship, then? He should know his time is limited, so dating a girl until she’s ready to sleep with you should not be plan A. He also seems oddly surprised when he realizes the demon is following him again. He points out a girl in a yellow dress whom nobody else can see, and when he realizes that, he freaks out. That seems to imply that he wasn’t expecting the demon, contrary to what we see later.
Not that anyone else’s behaviour makes much more sense. Greg and Paul in particular come across as particularly stupid, even by horror movie standards. Even when there is clear, undeniable proof that something evil and supernatural is chasing Jay, they still want to sleep with her. This is after she has repeatedly told them that this will pass, said evil supernatural entity on to them, by the way.
Guys, what are you doing? Run for the damn hills! There are other, less bland, attractive women in the world. Stay to help your friend, sure, but don’t freaking sleep with her. Are you seriously that horny?
Speaking of the demon, it’s not very impressive.
Inconsistency is a real problem for the movie and the demon is almost the perfect example for this. Everything about this creature seems to change for no apparent reason and with no clear benefit.
Granted, the demon is always unnerving. However, it is also not very intimidating. This is no small part due to how slow it is. It’s a great way to build tension, but not such a great way to convince us that it stands any chance at capturing anyone.
There’s a reason fast zombies became a thing, guys. An enemy you can get away from at a light jog very quickly becomes less of a threat.
In other horror movies with an invisible threat, there is almost constant tension, because you never know if the threat is in the room with the characters or not. The fact that the demon is so slow completely removes this ambiguity. Jay is only in danger when the demon is visible and that generally only happens when it’s quite far away. This means that, for most of the movie, there’s no reason to care what’s going on. The demon’s not there, so clearly nobody is going to get hurt.
The demon’s slowness also serves to pad the movie, which it desperately needs, because if the demon actually got a move on, the movie would be 50 minutes long at most.
Pretty soon you’ll find yourself wondering if the demon actually has to walk everywhere, as the scenes where it doesn’t show up sometimes drag on a bit too long. However, then it suddenly shows up in places it couldn’t possibly have walked to, at least not in the time it took the characters to get there, like the roof of a house. Come to think of it, why did it climb up there in the first place?
The demon’s approach is very strange too. The one time it attacks someone other than Jay, it throws Paul like a rag doll. However, any time it needs to get into a house, it smashes a window and climbs in. You’re telling us this thing can’t bust a door down? The one time it goes for brute force it only smashes a hole in the wood, and this was not a very sturdy door.
The demon’s ultimate goal is unclear, but when it kills Greg we learn that it apparently plans to fuck it’s victims to death…Somehow. Now remember how, at the start of this article, we’d be talking about the girl who dies in the beginning again? Now that we know that the demon fucks people to death, this raises the question of why this girl was so totally mangled at the start of the movie. How the hell did the demon manage to nearly snap her leg off while having sex with her?
This and many other questions concerning the demon are never answered, because nobody bothers to ask. We get that this could have easily become the ‘it’s not real’ conversation that goes on way too long in most horror movies or it could have turned into a group of people all going ‘I dunno’, but that would have been better than never questioning it. Nobody ever asks what exactly is chasing them, why it’s doing so and how this all started.
Having Hugh/Jeff answer that he didn’t know either would have been plenty, because at least somebody would have asked. Even when they get clear evidence that what’s chasing them is supernatural, nobody bothers with a quick google search or a priest or something.
We wondered about this for quite a while, until we found an interview with the movie’s writer and director, David Robert Mitchell. Now, we normally quite like interviews like these. They give us a little insight into what the people making the movie were thinking and it can explain some of the things we didn’t like or give background to the things we did like. It’s a good way to make us more appreciative of the effort that went into a movie.
Interviews with Mitchell were extremely enlightening where the movie’s problems were result, but it certainly made us no more sympathetic to anyone involved with it. We’ll put up a link to the interview here.
Every single problem we’ve mentioned here stems from the same source. The desire to make sure that this is not like other recent horror movies. Is that bad? No, it’s a good thing. Originality should be encouraged. Does it hurt the movie, in this case? Oh, hell yes!
See, this movie might avoid some of the clichés of the genre, but it tried to do it with a story that doesn’t make sense without the clichés. Very little thought went into this story, mainly because Mitchell was so busy making sure his movie wasn’t like other modern horror movies that he forgot to actually make sure it was still good.
A movie can leave questions unanswered, of course, and not every character needs to make competent decisions all the time. However, you can’t have characters who never question their situation and ignore any questions this raises for the audience. That’s not leaving the mystery intact, that’s just a sign that your movie is badly written.
Ironically, in trying not to be like horror movies such as Paranormal activity, It Follows actually wound up quite a lot like Paranormal Activity. Yes, the PA movies are found footage movie and this is not, but beyond that…The premise is pretty similar. In both movies there is an evil, invisible and unstoppable force that spends most of the movie screwing with the characters before actually killing anyone. It can be passed on to other people, but if it kills them it will go down the line of its previous victims.
Yes Paranormal Activity relies more on jumpscares and there’s differences in score and cinematography and the PA franchise actually has people working to figure out what’s going on, but seriously, the premises are a lot alike at their core. Hell, you could even argue that the story in both of them is pretty bad.
And in the end, maybe that’s what all the problems of this movie come down to. It has some good shots and the score is alright, but in the end It Follows just has a terrible story to work with and the abrupt, zero-closure ending does it no favours.
It’s not unique and it’s not as great as people say. There’s a real misconception among most people that every modern horror movie is like Paranormal Activity now. This is unfair and untrue. Of course there are clones, but there are still good modern horror movies that are nothing like this franchise. This misconception undoubtedly played a part in ‘It Follows” positive reception and we hope people will take off the rose-tinted glasses soon.
What did you think of the movie? Let us know in the comments below!
Be sure to follow the Fanbot, so you’ll be the first to know when we post new content! Want more from the Fanbot? Then be sure to swing by our Facebook, Twitter and Youtube pages!