Movie Review: "It Follows"
Jay Height (Maika Monroe) is a young woman who is in the very early stages of a romantic relationship with a guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). They go out on a date, he drives them to somewhere quiet and they have sex in his car. Everything is going well until he puts a rag over her mouth and she passes out. She wakes up to find herself tied to a wheelchair, which is being pushed by Hugh, and he is telling her about a curse that he had just passed along to her. When you get the curse, a mysterious monster will start coming after you, and if it catches you it will kill you. It can take the form of someone you know, or someone you do not, but it will always be walking straight for you.
The monster cannot be killed, but its only form of transportation is walking (so it is very slow) and it can be passed along to another person through sex. However, if it kills someone, it moves back to the previous person who had the curse, which could just be you. Hugh tells her all of this hoping that she would pass it along to someone else and move the curse along. He knew Jay would be skeptical of all of this, so the two wait until they see the monster (having taken the form of a girl). It is walking straight for Jay, which forces her into believing. Now Jay must find a way to survive while struggling with the moral dilemma of passing the curse along to another person in order to save herself. Luckily, Jay will not have to go through this alone because she has the help of her sister and her friends.
The Pros & Cons
The Monster (+5pts)
Character Development (-5pts)
Hot Potato (+4pts)
Maika Monroe (+3pts)
Dumb Teens (-3pts)
Pro: The Monster (+5pts)
This was a very interesting concept for a monster. We never saw what the thing really looked like when not taking the form of another person, but that was what made the thing so interesting. It could take the form of anyone, meaning that it could look like someone you know and care about, or it could look like a complete stranger. On top of that, the idea goes further. If this monster is after you, no matter where you are in the world, it knows where you are like a compass that knows to point north, and it is somewhere, walking directly toward you.
I thought this was very fascinating, because the thing can haunt you in public. In most horror movies, characters are safe during the day, with monsters usually only coming out at night. With this monster, it could hide in plain sight. It hid in crowds and in public, and it could get you without you even knowing it was there. I thought this was a unique monster, that had the potential to terrify people psychologically, as even when the monster was no where around, it made characters paranoid, thinking that any stranger walking in their general direction was the monster coming to kill them. It was a unique idea for a monster, but it was also very effective at making this movie very suspenseful.
Con: Character Development (-5pts)
These were severely underdeveloped characters. The main character got a little development, but she was really the only one. For the most part, these were a bunch of nameless and faceless teens. The main character seemed to care about the other characters, but that was not enough to make the audience care about them as well. Most of these characters felt like red shirts (Star Trek reference), meaning that I thought the characters were only in here as nameless bodies for the monster to kill, and I did not really care whether or not the monster did.
The lack of character development was a shame because it made the audience not care about the characters and the filmmakers spent a lot of screen-time showing these teenagers sitting, talking, and waiting. During these scenes, they hardly spoke to each other. They mostly stared at each other with an ominous soundtrack playing in the background. The filmmakers could have very easily used this time to further develop these characters and their relationships together, but they did not and it made this movie feel somewhat meaningless.
Pro: Hot Potato (+4pts)
I enjoyed the concept of the monster in this film but I also enjoyed the way in which characters could get rid of the monster. You cannot escape it, but you can run away or pass it along to someone else through sex. On the surface, this premise was somewhat silly and juvenile, but dig a little deeper and you will see that it was actually pretty interesting. In order to get pass it along, you need to do something that many people only want to do with people they care about, but you would not want to pass this thing along to someone you care about. However, my interest in this rated-r version of hot potato was even more interesting.
It raised the moral dilemma of whether or not to pass the monster along in order to save yourself, but there was also the added stipulation that whenever the monster killed someone, it moved to the previous person on its list. What that basically means is that you could finally cave in, pass the thing along to someone else, think you have put this madness behind you, only for the thing to make its way back to you in hours, days, months or even years. This basically means that you could be subjecting other people to this same hell, only for it to find its way back to you anyway, making the deaths you caused pointless. Again, I will admit that this premise was silly on the surface, but I ended up finding it very interesting.
Con: Shallow (-5pts)
I really enjoyed the monster and the way it is transmitted from person to person, but I thought the filmmakers never really dug deep into the psychological fear that this could cause. If someone was walking toward the main character in this movie, it was always the monster. In other words, I thought the filmmakers really did a poor job of exploring the fear and paranoia that could come along with this monster. If someone was living with that kind of fear and paranoia, they may eventually be begging for the monster to find them. There was so much to explore with this concept, and it could have made for a really scary and compelling character story, but the filmmakers did not go for it.
Similarly, the way that this curse was transmitted also had the potential for a ton of psychological terror through a wide variety of circumstances. The filmmakers never played with the difference between a girl trying to pass it along versus a boy trying to pass it along, nor did they explore what it would be like to try to pass this monster along to someone else while being unable to get laid. The filmmakers also never explored the struggle of wanting to pass it along, but having to be intimate with someone you do not like. Again, there were a ton of compelling things to explore with this concept, but the filmmakers played it safe and the movie ended up feeling extremely shallow as a result.
Pro: Maika Monroe (+3pts)
Having seen that this was mostly a young cast and that the lead actress was fairly unknown, I was not expecting much from the performances in this film. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Maika Monroe and what she was able to do in this movie. Like I have mentioned before, the character development in this movie was almost non-existent, but Maika Monroe brought a lot of life, emotion, and depth to her character anyway. She made a poorly developed character feel relatable through her performance and the movie was certainly better for it. A lot of this movie relied on her reactions to the monster that was following her. Maika Monroe was did a great job of playing this part convincingly. It was a strong performance from the young actress, and I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.
Con: Dumb Teens (-3pts)
These teens made some pretty bad decisions throughout this movie. I am going to be vague here and only explain examples that do not give anything away. Anyway, there was a scene where the monster got inside a house and what did the character do? Run upstairs, of course. Yes, they ran upstairs where there was nowhere else to go. Rather than run out the front door (which was entirely possible), the character ran upstairs where there was only one, safe way up and down.
There was another scene in which a character (who did not have the curse) had a gun, and tried to shoot the monster based on the main character's instruction (I should add that only the person being hunted can actually see the monster). Surprise, surprise, the character missed and ended up shooting someone else. Who thought it would be a good idea to fire a gun at something invisible with potential casualties all over the place. These were just a couple of examples, but know that there were plenty more. The characters in this movie made dumb decisions that seemed to do nothing but move the plot in the filmmakers' desired direction.
Grade: C- (74pts)
I thought It Follows had a fantastic premise. The monster was very unique and the way it was passed along from person to person was very interesting. The monster could be anyone, anywhere, and it could only be passed along through sex, which had plenty of implications in and of itself. Both of these concepts had the potential to make for a very compelling and effective psychological horror movie. Unfortunately, the filmmakers never dove deep enough into either of these concepts, as the movie ended up having a very interesting premise that the filmmakers never really explored.
The characters were also pretty poorly written, but I thought Maika Monroe was able to rise above her character's minimal development. I thought she did a great job playing the horror convincingly. I also thought that the filmmakers did a terrible job exploring the potential of this movie's premise, but I thought Maika Monroe was able to give this story at least some depth. Unfortunately, Maika Monroe was not enough to save this movie from the lack of development that the movie's characters and premise received. This movie had a premise with a ton of potentially compelling aspects, but the filmmakers managed to drop the ball with all of them, as I thought they delivered a hollow version of what this story could have been.