Saturday, April 11, 2015

It Follows, and Too Good to Last?

Ms. Brugger and I went to see It Follows the other night at the RED Cinemas, formerly the Carousel, here in Greensboro. The owners of the Carousel sold the theater some time ago, much to the annoyance of many regular movie-goers in town, since it was  about the only movie house in the area that played indie and lesser-known current theatrical releases. The new owners, who own several eclectic restaurants in the area, have named the 15-screen theater the RED (for Restaurant Entertainment District) Cinemas. It was the first time Kimberly and I had been there since the changeover, and I have to tell you, I was impressed. Sure enough, they have numerous indie films in their lineup, the concession stand offers beer and wine (some pretty good red wine selections, at that), and — unlike at least one review of the place I saw — it was anything but filthy, overpriced, and poorly staffed. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. It was clean, the prices were comparable to any other theater in town, and the staff was capable and courteous. Once we entered the auditorium — the largest one in the building — we were not bombarded by endless advertising and interminable trailers; just a handful of previews before the movie started, and right on time.

Unfortunately, I must predict this theater won't make it, at least with its current setup, for the long haul. Any place that caters to an adult theater-going audience is just too damned good to be true. But you can bet that I'll frequent the place as long as I have the opportunity. I would love, love, love for my prediction to be proven wrong. Y'all local folk, please help me out here.

As for It Follows, I was quite taken with it. Directed by David Robert Mitchell, it's a quiet, not-at-all gory, well-acted little film, with a creepy, if rather bizarre premise, and an excellent musical score by Rich Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpeace. It's also agreeably quirky — loaded with apparent anachronisms, vivid local color, and some lighthearted set pieces (but which are played quite seriously). It's presumably set in the present day, since there are e-readers, scenery in Detroit that could only be from the here and now, and the occasional 21st century car model. Yet there is 1980s-style clothing and fashion in abundance, 20th century push-button telephones, 1950s horror movies on TV, and cars primarily of 1970s and 80s vintage. The story revolves around a group of teenagers, and only occasionally do adults appear on screen. Most of those that do, such as the two main sisters' mother, have no speaking lines and appear only from behind. Having recently visited Michigan, I knew from the opening frame where the movie was set, and I tend to favor books and movies where the setting, almost as much as the characters, becomes an integral part of the story.

From the plot, one can assume that, at some indeterminate time in the past, a curse was cast by someone, with some occult power, somewhere, for some reason, that has brought forth a thing that follows you with murderous intent — until you have sex with someone else, who then becomes the chosen victim. However, if the thing kills that person, it comes back to you, and works its way back down the chain. So, even if you pass the curse on to someone else, you'd better hope they get laid quickly, and that everyone from he or she on fucks his or her living brains out.

The story follows Jay (Maika Monroe), a likeable young woman who lives in suburban Detroit with her mother and sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe). Her boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), takes her out to the movies, where he exhibits certain paranoid behavior. Things progress as things will progress between teenagers, and the two end up having sex (in a station wagon). But next thing you know, Hugh chloroforms Jay, and she wakes up in an abandoned building, tied to a wheelchair, where he explains himself — he suffers the curse of being followed and has passed it on to her. Worst of all, a strange woman appears and begins walking slowly toward Jay. Hugh then drives her home and dumps her off in her front yard, where Kelly and their friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi) rush to her rescue.

From that point on, Jay is subjected to being followed by various strange individuals that only she can see — in reality, all the same entity wearing different guises. As horror movie aficionados, how often have we been pissed off by the slow-walking pursuer who still manages to catch the fleeing victim? Here's the movie where the slow, inevitable tread of the pursuer is truly the source of fear. Jay's neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), who doesn't quite believe in the curse but understands that she is desperate, offers to help by taking her and her friends to his family's remote lake house, which she believes will at least buy her some time. It's not too much time, alas, for the pursuer appears, at least to her, but its handiwork is evident to all: it smashes a hole in the barn door where she seeks refuge and takes a fair swipe at Paul, who is thrown into the air and left with scars resembling claw marks. Jay attempts to flee in Greg's car, but in her panic, she crashes into a nearby cornfield.

She wakes in the hospital, alone. But Greg, being all noble and such, is willing to take the curse from her by having sex with her — which he does, in her hospital bed. Days pass and nothing happens, reinforcing Greg's attitude that, whatever Jay's problem is, it's in her head. Well, yeah — until the thing up and kills Greg, disguised as his mother in a horny state.

The friends decide to attempt to kill the pursuer, in novel fashion, at an indoor swimming pool in Detroit. Here, though the thing is still invisible to all but Jay, it does reveal itself to her friends. And now their plan to destroy it is put to the test....

All through the narrative, as dark as it is, there are moments of whimsy, particularly in the swimming pool scene. Jay's friend Yara proves particularly quirky and several of her scenes bring on a good chuckle. It's kind of humor that makes the characters appear as real teenagers — unlike so many slash-and-burn-the-obnoxious-victim horror flicks, where one's natural inclination is to jump into the killer's shoes and off the idiots just for good measure. One of the best things about It Follows is that, while the movie is about young folk, almost exclusively, it isn't juvenile. That is refreshing.

Yep, I liked it. I'll rate it four out of five Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis.
Maika Monroe as Jay Height, in a moment of relative calm
Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and Jay (Maika Monroe), trying to sort out the strange goings-on
One of the pursuers that only Jay can see

No comments: