Monday, 13 April 2015
FILM REVIEW: IT FOLLOWS
In the most creepily effective piece of safe sex promotion since the Grim Reaper campaign of the 1980s, comes writer-director David Robert Mitchell's It Follows: a creepy-as-fuck parable about the dangers of unprotected sex.
But Mitchell's young protags don't have to contend with chlamydia (pfft, they wish!) but something far more sinister. For in this instance, STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Demon and once you've been infected (via sexual intercourse with someone already carrying the bug) you have one course of action: pass it on ASAP and hope that person passes it on just as quick, or else the Demon will come and fuck you up.
After a couple of dates with the slightly older Hugh (Jake Weary), college student Jay (Maika Monroe) decides to go all the way. But her post-coital bliss in the backseat of his car soon turns to horror with the introduction of some chloroform. Thankfully Jay is neither raped nor murdered but she soon realises that what her beau has done to her is arguably far worse.
Jay is now infected with a relentless (though slow moving) demon, which can appear in any guise but only to the carrier, and which is only dangerous should it get its hands on you. Jay's best bet? To pass the disease on to someone else and hope they do the same. One willing recipient is Paul (Keir Gilchrist), friend to Jay's younger sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe), who's had a crush on the older girl since childhood. Tormented though she is, Jay, unlike Hugh, is not so eager to pass on the disease so freely.
Kelly, Paul, their friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and neighbour Greg (Danny Zovatto), rally to support the unraveling Jay, even though they can't see what she does. They also don't go to their parents or the police because who'd believe them? Also, you don't talk to grown-ups about sex!
Like the horror films of the 1970s-80s, It Follows -- which save for the use of mobile phones has a very 1980s aesthetic -- plays on the theme of sex as sin and death as punishment. Those teens who indulge in carnal activities are bound to regret it most painfully: punished for partaking in 'the original sin'; those who remain virgins get to live through the night. Ironically, sex is both the poison and the cure in It Follows, and like herpes -- or HIV -- the "disease" just can't be rid of.
And like the best horror films, the protag is female. Maika Monroe's Jay may not be as kick-ass as say, Neve Campbell's Sidney in the Scream films, or Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in Alien, but she is strong-willed with a functioning moral compass (though it does divert from true north on one occasion). She also gives great cry face.
Monroe, strongly resembling Brie Larson, also has a passing resemblance to a young Chloe Sevigny. This in turn recalls Sevigny's character in Larry Clark's Kids (1995), who spends the entirety of that film trying to prevent the boy who infected her with HIV from passing it on to another unsuspecting girl. Intentional or not, it adds another layer of interest to a horror film that is already operating on a more intellectual level than your average teen slasher flick.
It's an impressive and mostly assured second feature by David Robert Mitchell but by no means perfect: the score by Disasterpeace is often just as distracting as it is effective, and just what was the motivation behind going to the old swimming pool in the third act?
Others have taken issue with the film's ending, which isn't a climax (no pun intended) so much as open-ended. But that's more in keeping with the theme of sexually transmitted infections, particularly if you want to read It Follows strictly as AIDS parable.
Either way, It Follows will leave you unnerved and feeling uneasy long after the house lights come up. But maybe don't see it on a first date; that could kill the mood whilst also provoking some awkward post-film chat.