This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 26th April 2015
“Know your audience,” they say, and the makers of It Follows must be on intimate terms with theirs, as they have created a terrific little indie movie for lower-budget horror aficionados who appreciate clever concept over production perfection.
But with the same axiom in mind for reviewers tasked with advising their readers, the reality is It Follows may not make general audiences quite so thrilled.
The concept: a bunch of young people living disconsolately in rundown (sub)urban Detroit are suddenly in peril when one girl “catches” a dark omen after she has sex with her less-than-honourable date. This novel spin on the perils of a sexually transmitted infection sees victims being followed by murderous figures only they can discern – until they sleep with someone else to pass on the curse.
There have been many academic theses, indeed books, written on the topic of virginity as a convention in horror movies. Normally, it’s the final girl standing who hasn’t put out and thus survives the carnage. So how clever that director-screenwriter David Robert Mitchell (previous work: Virgin and The Myth of the American Sleepover – clearly a theme emerging) cuts through that self-righteous cliché and encourages the young folk in his film to rid themselves of their demons by committing a sinful act.
The story works, but the execution (‘scuse the pun) doesn’t quite. It’s the production that will divide audiences into arthouse wheat and multiplex chaff. Sure, there is some nice camerawork – lots of long takes contribute to the low-budget feel – but the soundtrack is awful, and initially no one seems to be acting with any conviction (though at least they’re hardly overacting). There are a couple of convincing scares, but then other frights are undercut – the writer is shrewd in going against cliché but then fails by leaving us unmoved.
Perhaps one saving grace is that this unobnoxious bunch of kids is far removed from Hollywood’s usual fiend fodder, and although you’re unlikely to truly care what happens to any of them, at least they’re not so ghastly you’re willing their demise. The right audience will love It Follows but the others have been warned.