by ALEX CARNEVALE
dir. David Robert Mitchell
The two beings at the center of David Robert Mitchell's horror movie could not be more alike. Each is slow-moving, frequently contemplative, constantly changing and disturbingly mysterious. One is a 17 year old girl named Jay (Maika Monroe) and the other is an invisible monstrosity that haunts said teenager, assuming the form of the people she does and does not love.
Hugh (a brilliant Jake Weary) seduces Jay with coy promises when It Follows begins in suburban Detroit. Hugh and Jay finally have the sex in his automobile, after which he chloroforms her and ties her lithe, peering form up in a wheelchair. This is all for her own good, however, because he has passed on the sinister interest of the invisible creature through hot penetration. If the monster kills Jay, it will go looking for Hugh again, so he shows her the predator in order to let her know the problem he infected her with is real.
Set in a meager Detroit neighborhood that is amazingly the nicer part of the city, It Follows exists outside of any time and place. None of the teenagers that help Jay confront this monster have cell-phones, although one has an e-reader shaped like a clamshell. The teens themselves watch 50s movies and adopt fashions from decades later — their originality comes from being rather general.
The monster follows Jay at an infinitesimal pace. We know, very quickly, that it is preternaturally strong and not unintelligent. Still there are barriers and places that it cannot cross — water, for example. It's odd that no one ever thinks of getting on a plane or building a super strong cage, but this kind of quick-thinking is difficult in a panic. The main move Jay and her friend Kelly (Lili Sepe), along with Kelly's brother Paul (Keir Gilchrist), decide to make, is get a gun. This is the only thing they do that is completely easy.
The captivating score by Disasterpiece hammers home the dread Jay feels at every moment. It is, in fact, a dread that predates her sex with Hugh, which turns It Follows into the most important American film about abstinence since Kids. Jay's sexual encounters are all quiet humping at a slow pace. There is the sense that because she does not really seem to be enjoying sex, it is even more unfair that she has contracted the monster.
Eventually the teens concoct a decent plan to rid Jay of her tailing scourge. They hole up in a spooky school that features a massive, Olympic-sized swimming pool, and things develop from there. There is a sadness about all physicality and the intimacy that follows from it, Mitchell seems to be suggesting. This is a major theme in horror, but it has never been explored so literally.
The cleansing pool at the end of It Follows is the only moment that doesn't ring entirely true, and Mitchell takes great care to undermine the certainty of the film's ending. There is a dissatisfaction, or perhaps more of an emptiness, that comes after sex happens. Personifying our own disgust just adds to the vacuum.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
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