I had the displeasure to watch this movie with a friend after seeing its raving reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (an absolutely mind-boggling 96% Fresh, how so many people can enjoy this unappealing shlock for almost 2 hours is beyond me). It is easily one of the worst movies I’ve seen, and while on this blog I usually love to talk about all the great music and movies I’ve come across, I can’t help myself with It Follows. It makes me physically upset, and its high rating is a hard slap in the face to horror movies (and art in general) with ambition, talent, and effort. Spoilers ahead but honestly who cares it’s not worth your time and it’s been like 5 years.
I’ve never really liked horror movies – not because they’re scary, but because so many of them are so unapologetically bad. Apparently, It Follows is actually a cut above the rest, and if this is true, then I’m disgusted with Hollywood horror. It Follows is bland, cliché, devoid of character, negatively reactionary, and boring as hell. The characterization of this film is the easiest to pick apart – there is none. Every character is a painfully generic cardboard cutout that’s been forced to robotically recite melodramatic teenage bullshit as if they’re lifeless husks being dangled by some puppeteer to move around and flap their gums for a few seconds before turning off and going silent again. I can’t name a single interesting trait about any of the characters – there’s Main Girl, who’s about as flat and insipid as a blank sheet of paper, Long-Haired Dude, whose stupidity is frustratingly predictable (and not like in a relatable or realistic teenager way; he’s just… dumb…), Nice Guy, whom the film grossly decides to reward for being so nice and respectable and kind and ugh, just lets him get the girl through no actual effort of his own, and then the rest of them, who are also about as flat and insipid as a blank sheet of paper and have no meaning on the plot whatsoever. Every single character is like a cliché culmination of the worst traits of their archetype. I challenge you to watch this film and point out a single interesting trait about any of the main cast. The biggest problem with characterization like this is that it’s inhuman, that no teenager on this earth is as genuinely bland and unappealing as the characters in It Follows. It’s a cautionary tale made for teenagers but features an offensively bad representation of the most stereotypical dumb shit that adults think teenagers are like. I didn’t like It either, but at least it has a raw and candid look at the lives of its young children placed in a scary world.
I’ll talk about the worst part of this movie now, which is that its storytelling is tastelessly boring and its horror so laughably lacking that the film cannot possibly hold your attention for its runtime. The movie’s horror aspect is flawed by design – its metaphor for STDs/AIDS is presented as a slow-moving zombie-like creature that doesn’t pose enough of a threat that the main character can’t drive a few miles away and take a nap for the night. It’s accurate in metaphor; STDs and AIDS kill slowly, and its horror is in the ever-present fear of its grasp creeping up, one night claiming your life. But the monster is just… laughable. Its only kill in the movie comes from Long-Haired Dude’s arrogance, and it isn’t provided in enough of a horrifying context that the movie’s canned message of “don’t hoe around” makes any impact. It’s an eternal, immortal follower that will always come after you, but is just such a dull vehicle in the movie that it’s a lot scarier in concept than its execution, and that can’t keep interest during runtime.
The story is a broken mishmash of the most uninteresting melodrama possible and filler. There’s a lot of filler. The worst of it is in the movement of its characters – the film loves to waste time by filming dimly lit walking or driving shots. There’s (somewhat) filler in Main Girl’s Sister’s monologues, which are really just melodramatic readings of cryptic loosely-tied thematic statements and wink wink nudge nudge these readings aren’t just randomly chosen dear audience! And yet they aren’t going to make any sense whatsoever to our target audience of impressionable teenagers so why put them in at all, except to try to make your film seem more heady and cool than it is? There’s hilariously bad portrayals of teen interaction, the most cringeworthy in the opening of the film, where two friends(?) share lifeless quips about their obvious personality flaws or something in the most unnatural, stilted dialogue possible.
So this post is getting a bit long and I haven’t really talked about the story, but the truth is I had to come back to writing this a week later and can’t really remember what happened in the movie… I think the pacing was done decently in the first half, but it’s still pretty much a dull grayscale ride all the way through, with some pinpoints of mild overdramatic tension that we’ve seen done a billion times better in It. That’s not to say there aren’t good parts of this movie though. There’s an excellent beach shot in the opening, where a young woman is placed right at the intersect of pitch-black water and the bright white sand at the shore, ominously lit by the blinding headlights of her car. The soundtrack is also pretty great, with spooky atmospheric synths really punctuating a sense of portent and uneasiness. But none of this come even close to making up for the mess that is the rest of the film. Don’t watch it.