By Chaz Lipp

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Indie hit It Follows is a horror movie with plenty of creepy atmosphere, but that’s about it. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell presents an initially intriguing concept. After Jay (Maika Monroe) finally relents and has sex with boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), she finds out she’s been cursed. A shape-shifting figure (who can assume any human form) will relentlessly pursue her with murderous intent. That is, until she passes the curse onto her next sexual partner. But there’s a catch. If she fails to pass it on, Hugh will once again become a target. Likewise, if her next partner fails to pass it on and subsequently gets killed, she’ll be next in line to die once again.

Early on, director Mitchell evokes a combination of John Carpenter’s skewed suburbia of Halloween and Wes Craven’s lucid dream-state of Nightmare on Elm Street. Parents of the teenage and young adult protagonists are nowhere to be seen. Dilapidated greater Detroit serves as a particularly depressing backdrop to the characters’ burnt-out lives. Once Jay realizes she needs to be constantly paranoid, always looking for the face in the crowd that doesn’t quite belong, It Follows reveals itself as something of a cautionary tale about the dangers of STIs. Having sex without really knowing your partner can result in death. Even after Jay is “cursed,” the guys in her life – horny childhood friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and studly neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto) – still will do anything (including risking their lives) to bed her.

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Frequently interesting dialogue and characterizations (Monroe is especially effective as the appealingly enigmatic Jay) are sabotaged when Mitchell completely loses control of his concept. The deadly pursuer is initially perceptible only to the cursed individual. The pursuer, by the way, is usually slow moving – but conveniently fast when a given scene calls for it. It’s also remarkable ineffective, apparently choosing to strike only when the victim is awake. Jay is able to drive into the woods and sleep on the hood of her car without being bothered all night. During a beach scene, we learn that the pursuer is in fact just an invisible three-dimensional human. Jay’s friends can contact it physically and it them. Whether naked or clothed (frequently the former), the pursuer goes completely unseen to all but the victim. However, all anyone else has to do is throw a blanket over it and its shape is visible to everyone.

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By the time It Follows reaches its nonsensical third act, I found myself so busy trying to understand the “rules” Mitchell had laid out that everything ceased being the least bit tense. Paul, Jay, with Jay’s sister (Lili Sepe) and friend (Olivia Luccardi), hatch a spontaneous “plan” to defeat the pursuer that beggar’s belief. I’ll spare the spoilers and not go into it, but suffice it to say that it only emphasizes that the once-spectral figure we see early in the film is actually just an “invisible man.” It is flat-out stupid, contrived, and – along with the pathetically non-committal conclusion – effectively wipes out any goodwill the initially stylish It Follows had generated.

Movie Review IT FOLLOWS – Images: Radius-TWC

Chaz Lipp

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