It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell)

It Follows is a monster movie. Somewhere in the second half of the film, the monster starts acting with more malice towards its targets, like it’s frustrated it hasn’t been able to kill them yet. Given it’s an invisible sex monster—or, I guess, possibly an invisible sex demon—there’s a particular energy to it. There’s always specific energy to the sex in Follows. It’s always transactional; it’s always wrong. Abstinence is the only way to keep the sex demons away.

But if writer and director Mitchell is doing the whole thing to tell young folks to wait until they’re married—though it wouldn’t save you either, in fact, it’s just making your doom all the more convenient. So hang on, there are rules.

The monster doesn’t “follow” so much as walk directly towards its target. It has one target at a time, but previous targets can also see it because once the current target is resolved, the one previous becomes the target. The only way to pass the target along is through sex. It’s sexually transmitted but apparently not through bodily fluids, and it’s unclear if Clinton definitions apply. Even after the Scooby Gang gets together to save the final girl-to-be(?), Maika Monroe, and they come up with plans to deal with the monster… there’s never a big exposition dump about their ideas. Given how many decisions are made offscreen or when the music gloriously blares over any conversation, anything’s possible. Because while Mitchell doing it all as a VD analogy is probably too much, he’s got the class angle in there.

While the gang isn’t Richie Rich, they’re doing a lot better than many residents of their neighboring city, Detroit, MI. At the beginning of the second act, there’s a scene where they drive through the city and stare out at the urban blight, only to talk about it later on. And it’s going to figure into the resolution. So it’s very much there. Of the two symbolisms, he went with the white American bourgeoisie being devils over VD being their undoing. It works out. Like, it’s solid symbolism. If Mitchell had any third act tricks up his sleeve whatsoever, who knows where it would’ve led.

But the third act is a mess. It’s an initially ambitious mess, where the ideas just stop being good at a certain point, and there’s nothing left to do but wait for a sequel. Or not.

The film’s a stunning mix of monster, horror, slasher, and teen angst. But good indie teen angst, handheld teen angst. Bringing all those moods together is the sensational music by Disasterpeace. It’s electronic, occasionally very video game sounds (intentionally), keeping the atmosphere in check. Without the music, It Follows wouldn’t be anywhere near as potentially terrifying in its mundane. The music’s particularly vital in the first act before the Scooby Gang sets off, and it’s all about Monroe’s recovery from trauma. It Follows is never more actually violent or intense than the first act, but only because the film ends if Monroe dies and it’s a hundred-minute movie; in other words, there are many actual breathers, even as the film keeps the tension up. If only Mitchell had another fifteen minutes of ratcheting up the tension, it’d be incredible.

As is, it’s still damn good. Monroe’s a good lead, and the Scooby Gang’s all effective. There are multiple love triangles, always involving Keir Gilchrist—more like he inserts himself in them—including dreamboat neighbor with a past Daniel Zovatto, who Monroe’s little sister, Lili Sepe, likes. Olivia Luccardi’s the other friend, who reads Dostoevsky on a pocket clamshell (literally) e-reader. They all get personalities but always in the background. Mitchell’s script and direction are wonderfully efficient in the setups.

Excellent photography from Mike Gioulakis for most of the film; third act, it goes slightly to pot (for the big finale, so it’s essential) and never really has a chance to come back. Great editing from Julio C. Perez IV. The editing’s the most important thing. Perez and Mitchell have a great sense of timing (ditto Disasterpeace for the music).

It Follows is outstanding, but Mitchell bunts the third act, which is disappointing.

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