For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. Jay and her teenage friends must now find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind in this chiller that Bloody Disgusting calls “the scariest movie of 2015.”
Those readers who have followed enough of my reviews and blog postings here on HDD should know by now that I've never been a big fan of the horror genre. I love to be scared, but have little patience (and less stomach) for the majority of horror films and their directors, who equate 'scaring' an audience with how much gore they can fit into each frame of film. Sorry, folks, but that's not horror…that's just being exploitative, and for years I've skipped most releases in the genre for this very fact. But along comes director David Robert Mitchell and his new take on horror with 'It Follows', a film that is both a shout out to classic movies like Halloween and something totally new. This is the best and most original horror movie I've seen since The Blair Witch Project.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is a young girl who is about to go 'all the way' for the first time with boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary). All is sweet and romantic until after their first coupling, when Hugh knocks Jay out with chloroform and she awakens tied up to a chair. Hugh explains to her why he has done this: there's an entity that's following him and that he can only see, which will kill him if it catches up to him. Here's the kicker, though: the target of the entity can be passed on via sexual intercourse. So when Hugh had sex with Jay, he made her the entity's primary target. If it finds and kills Jay, however, it goes right back to stalking Hugh…and if it kills Hugh, it goes after whomever passed it on to him sexually. The only hope Jay can have of getting it not to follow her is to have sex with someone else, and hope either the entity never gets that person or the person passes it along to someone else, and they pass it on, etc.
Jay, of course, thinks that Hugh is just crazy and even reports him to the police. But since their sexual act was consensual, the police don't do a whole lot in trying to track Hugh down. By the time Jay and her teenage pals do find Hugh (who isn't really named Hugh at all), it becomes obvious to all of them that this deadly paranormal stalker is completely real. The remainder of the movie is spent with Jay and her friends trying to figure out a way to get rid of it forever.
The premise here is remarkably original for a horror movie. One watches the movie feeling that he or she has certainly seen a villain like this on screen before, but can't quite place the movie where it appeared. That's because the bad guy/gal/whatever in 'It Follows' is a combination of all the great horror terrors we've seen in the past. It's a ruthless killer, it can appear as anyone, only the victim (or potential vicitim) can see it coming, and it's seemingly indestructible. It's the perfect movie personification of death, as no matter how much you try and run from it, it's eventually going to claim you.
If 'It Follows' just followed the plot above, it would be an above-average horror film. But director David Robert Mitchell (who also wrote the story) fills his movie with so much symbolism and ambiguity, there's a ton of hidden layers and subtext to the film – much of which is left to each individual viewer on how it should be deciphered. Even the forms of the entity that Jay sees – an old woman, a battered version of one of her friends, and – eventually – a deceased family member, seem to imply internal fears that are only hinted at on-screen. Additionally, the fact that a sexual act results in the entity stalking you has so many layers that a whole thesis on the topic could probably be written. Is it an AIDS allegory that encourages abstinence? A symbolic representation of the loss of innocence in humans? Something deeper? Or are we reading too much into this? Needless to say, this is the type of movie that can be enjoyed on multiple levels by multiple types of film audiences.
But let's jump back to the beginning before I finalize my thoughts on 'It Follows'. As I noted at the outset of this review, one of my biggest turnoffs with most horror movies is how they resort to "gore" for their thrills. Well, other than one, poorly-rendered CGI shot in the opening minutes of the movie (which, honestly, is in no way needed and should have been cut - pardon the pun), 'It Follows' is almost completely free of the type of gore one would associate with the "horror" genre. In fact, I'm not even sure the movie qualifies as horror at all…it's more of a Hitchcockian thriller that's a throwback to the type of films that used to scare us with ideas instead of visuals.
It goes without saying at this point that I absolutely fell in love with this movie as I was watching it. It's the kind of game-changer that the horror genre needed, and a perfect modern-day example of how what is unseen on the big screen is much, much more terrifying than anything that can be shown in terms of special effects and prosthetic makeup. It's the horror movie non-horror fans like myself wish studios would make a lot more of, and it's definitely worth adding to one's collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'It Follows' stalks its way onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single 50GB dual-layer disc, along with an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Heaven Knows What and Snowpiercer. The main menu consists of a video montage of moments from the movie, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A-locked.
'It Follows' was shot digitally on the Arri Alex Plus, giving it a colorful and sharp-looking transfer onto the Blu-ray format. The black levels here are inky deep, and the amount of detail and depth to the image is simply wonderful, especially for a movie that was made on such a relatively low budget. However, the video is not flawless. There are a great amount of panning shots by the filmmaker in the movie, and a number of them feature noticeable aliasing in the image if one is looking carefully, particularly on houses or other stationary objects as the camera pans across or past them. Thankfully, almost all of these shots are establishing or transitional moments in the movie, so virtually all segments with the actors remain pristine and free of any defects.
Other problems are pretty much non-existent, as I detected no issues with banding, excessive noise, or the like. Overall, this is a pretty nice looking movie and fans of the film should be more or less quite pleased with the image quality here.
The only available audio here (other than the commentary that is part of the bonus features) is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that more than fits the needs for this presentation. Although the movie doesn't have a great deal of action sequences (it's the tension that provides for most of the thrills), one of the big 'characters' in the movie is composer Disasterpeace's (aka Rich Vreeland) score, which sounds very much like something that John Carpenter might have conjured up back in the 1980s. The score is slightly (and intentionally) delivered louder than the spoken word in the movie, and the lossless track here delivers it with the proper amount of "oomph". The audio also gets a chance to show off a bit during the climax to the movie, particularly during an outdoor shot of the building our heroes wind up in, where the thunder and lightning of a rainstorm give one's home theater a nice rocking.
Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, although primarily delivered front and center. In terms of any audio glitches in the track, there were none that I detected. So, overall, this isn't quite reference quality material, but it is very well-rendered and adds to one's enjoyment of the movie.
Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
'It Follows' is a game-changer when it comes to horror movies. It pays homage to some of the great releases of the past, while being totally original in and of itself. It also breaks genre conventions by showcasing very little in terms of bloodletting, but still being as scary and haunting as some of the best horror films ever made. This one's a keeper, and it comes highly recommended.