Editor's note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
I’ll be honest: I’m really bad at watching horror movies. As a kid, I could barely watch my older cousins play “Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies” without having nightmares for weeks afterward. I had a similar feeling after my editor asked me to review something more fitting to the Halloween season for this week's “Film Fridays.” Usually, I can power through movies like “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” when surrounded by other people. But, unfortunately for me, my roommates have “exams” and “job interviews” to prepare for and abandoned me to watch this week’s film, 2015’s “It Follows,” as a solo mission.
“It Follows” was a breakthrough hit from then-rookie director David Mitchell. The film focuses on college student Jay, portrayed in a fantastic performance by Maika Monroe, and the terrifying curse that torments her after a seemingly casual one-night stand. The curse is a shapeshifting creature that takes the form of different people while only being visible to those it pursues. The curse is also sexually transmitted, as it is passed on from person to person after they seal the deal. How someone figured out the extremely complicated and specific rules of the curse/demon-thing is never explained, as are most of the rules to the creature’s existence. The only exposition we get on the creature is through Chad-bro Hugh, the guy who slept with Jay and cursed her in the first place. Hugh is also, for some reason, forgiven instantaneously by Jay for essentially handing her a death sentence after a 30-second performance. The creature’s forms are a mixed bag — some of the people it takes the form of come across as truly disturbing (especially the super creepy grandma), but others are so bizarre I burst out laughing mid-movie.
Along for the ride are Jay’s sister, Kelly, who does nothing to help the situation; Greg, the next-door neighbor who uses the demonic shenanigans as a chance to get laid; and Paul, the king of the friend zone who dodges the monster long enough to get the girl by the end credits. Paul in particular is one of the worst parts of the film. Part of it had to do with the utterly stale performance given by actor Keir Gilchrist, but the majority of the blame lies in his dialogue. His character exemplifies everything wrong with the “nice guy” stereotype and somehow ends the movie with the happiest ending out of the cast.
Where the film truly shines is with the cinematography. Mitchell uses the camera as a character of its own. He positions the camera in the most intense scenes in a way that forces the audience to contend with not just what they can see but what is lurking in the background where we cannot. The opening scene is a fantastic example of this ability to keep the audience holding their breath with the rotation of the camera away from the monster chasing its target. The whole movie, I was constantly looking over the character’s shoulders looking for signs of the monster, and every background character becomes a potential suspect for the next sign of the creature. “It Follows” does a truly phenomenal job of creating a tense atmosphere where the characters, as well as the audience, are constantly tricked into letting their guards down, and, then, immediately forced to pay the price for it. The film uses jump scares sparingly, but when they happen, they’re remarkably effective. Wear the brown pants for this one.
“It Follows” is a well-directed horror film with a distinct and effectively scary villain, and while the majority of the cast is given little to do and Paul sucks, “It Follows” is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years, and I wish more films could replicate its originality.
Contact columnist Ben de Lemos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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