Friday, July 17, 2015

It Follows

2014, David Robert Mitchell -- download

The innovative horror movie. What does it take to be innovative? A unique plot? A twist that turns the genre or sub-genre on its head? An unfamiliar stylistic approach? These questions are being asked a lot in the indie horror circuit, and some just answer it --- by being really really good. No, seriously, being innovative in horror can be as simple as trying to be a good movie, instead of following the standard playbook and pandering to the familiar tropes.

It Follows presents a familiar premise of a monster haunting an individual, relentless and unstoppable, until eventually leading to their death. But is unlike anything you have seen before, a mix of supernatural creature, Japanese curse and campfire tale. The monster, when you first "catch" it, begins to appear to you -- as your mother, a dead relative, or even a complete stranger. Nobody else sees the monster. And it begins walking towards you. It will be disturbing, either horrific or uncomfortable. Who wants to see their mother naked. If it reaches you, and is able to touch you, then you are dead. You can run away, or even drive away, but it will always eventually catch up. How do you survive? Well, pass it on. Like the evil consequence of promiscuity, you pass it on by having sex with another person. And you have to pass on the story, for if this unwitting sex mate dies, the monster comes back to you. So, the idea is to just have it being passed on and on and on.

This premise is wrapped in an odd little movie set in the modern day ruins that are the Detroit suburbs. The suburbs, as well as the movie, are trapped in the 70s, in track suits and spandex shorts, in backyard above-ground pools and kids playing cards. Our characters are high schoolers, or just post high schoolers, idle and bored. They spend most of their days talking about nothing, rarely really even looking at each other, until the monster comes into play. And then there is incentive, loyalty and inventiveness.

And then there is that one girl with the clamshell shaped tablet, the alterna-geek reading poetry and philosophy, a little bit of the future dropped into their retro trap. She is not a key plot twist, more a small jarring twist to keep us from falling into the ennui these kids exhibit. The movie is also almost entirely adult-less, a bizarre Charlie Brown world where the presented adults don't contribute anything of value. There is a monster stalking these kids, and the parents seem oblivious to the terrors, the disappearances and the deaths.

As a horror movie, many will be disappointed for the lack of continuous death and a defined resolution, at least until a sequel presents itself. But this movie is more about the fear these kids experience, an allegory for the looming future with just a bit of a hammer to the head about promiscuity and the way unexpected pregnancy can force adulthood on you. As a creation, the movie is wonderful, unexpected and artful. I rather liked it.

But I cannot help but think back to a few other examples of genre breaking horror movies, such as The House of the Devil or The Innkeepers. There seems to be stylistic choice of being just a little retro, as if people my age have to tap into the VCR and late night movie airings. We associate some aspects of the 70s with horror, and by adding in those stylistic choices, we set our brain back a bit.