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‘It Follows’ Review: Best New Horror Movie in Years

IT FOLLOWS-Jay in Car

It Follows” is technically a 2014 movie, but with its wide theatrical release this past weekend (seeing even popular festival movies in my local non-NYC/LA theatre is getting rarer and rarer), it is currently my reigning favorite of 2015.

David Robert Mitchell’s sophomore effort, “It Follows” is an anxious, nightmare logic horror film about Jay Heights (played by the lovely and talented Maika Monroe from Adam Wingard’s The Guest and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring) doing the deed with an older boy and now, uh-oh, she’s cursed. Mitchell’s movie is not merely about a girl labeled as a “slut” but as someone actually cursed by having sex, someone who is now being stalked by her deed in the form of an amorphous monster that can take the shape of anyone—strangers, or even people she loves. This boogey man stalks her from a distance, approaching slowly at a walk, hoping to grab hold of her and kill her off once and for all.

“It Follows” touches on the anxieties of many virgin (or not quite virgin) teenagers fixing to do the deed, as Nic Cage in “Peggy Sue Got Married” would say, “What, you mean sex? Ha ha, intercourse. You wanna have intercourse?”. Mitchell harnesses this anxiety wonderfully into an expertly crafted genre picture that is nostalgic of movies from the 1970s/1980s (for me, it touches the same nerve as the original “Nightmare on Elm Street”).

IT FOLLOWS-Mirror WS

“It Follows” looks great. Shot on the Arri Alexa and Red Epic, Director of Photography Mike Gioulakis (“John Dies at the End”) creates a cold, eerie world ripe with pretty colors and people in desolate Detroit.

As Variety put it, “As Mitchell explained at the pic’s premiere in Cannes, ‘It Follows’ marks his attempt to make a ‘beautiful horror movie’ — equal parts gentle and aggressive.  At times, his meticulous compositions rival Gregory Crewdson’s ethereal suburban-gothic photographs.”

Untitled from Beneath the Roses (2003–2005) Gregory Crewdson
Untitled from Beneath the Roses (2003–2005) Gregory Crewdson

A friend of mine commented that “It Follows” reminded him of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 proof-in-digital-filmmaking-excellence “Drive”. I was a little thrown off by this. It took reading Mitchell’s quote on a “beautiful horror movie” to understand the “Drive” reference. Just as “Drive” was a beautifully violent movie, “It Follows” is a beautifully eerie movie.

The movie starts off with a 360-degree camera pan around a Detroit suburban street as a teenager runs out of her house in her pajamas (and high heels), seemingly fleeing for her life from a presence we (and her neighbor) cannot see. The actress does a wonderful job of registering the fear in one frame, then backpedaling when she realizes nobody can see her assailant, playing it off, running back inside, and returning to speed off in the family car.

Filmmaker Magazine on the 360-degree shot: “Unlike dopamine-inducing mood enhancers, the opening sequence of unique hybrid ‘It Follows’ aims for atmosphere, not climax…It is cinematic foreplay, simultaneously tease and microcosm. Over the span of several minutes, David Robert Mitchell succinctly anticipates not only the plotline of the narrative, but also its themes and infrastructure.”

As an avid fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights”, I’ve always loved the 360-degree pan. Anderson’s scripted circular shot around Eddie Adams’ bedroom early in the film is both evocative and appropriate. Like the opening of “It Follows”, Eddie’s wall posters of bikini babes and muscles cars, his massive dong squeezed into a tight pair of undies, his practicing kung fu moves in the mirror; all these elements “anticipate not only the plotline of the narrative, but also its themes and infrastructure.”

A similar nod to Anderson would be the use of an extreme close-up of Jay in a hospital bed. There are not many close-ups in “It Follows”. In fact, mostly wide angle Cooke S4 lenses are used for the film’s entirety. Paired with the 2.35 : 1 wide screen aspect ratio, we are constantly looking over the character’s shoulder for the spooky “It”. So when we do get a close-up, it packs a punch. The ECU of Jay’s bloody bandage, with its fine focus and heavy falloff, is reminiscent of “Boogie Nights” many close-ups, shot with anamorphic zoom lenses.

IT FOLLOWS-Head Wound INSERT
“It Follows” Extreme Closeup
boogie_nights_-_close-ups_objects_etc_1-1
“Boogie Nights” Extreme Closeup

The movie’s beauty is chiefly displayed when Jay has sex with Hugh in the back of his car in an abandoned lot. The shot is used prominently in the trailer and was the main image I remembered other than Maika Monroe in her pink bra strapped to a wheelchair.

IT FOLLOWS-Car

Variety said, “If ‘Myth (of the American Sleepover)’was his John Hughes homage, then ‘It Follows’ is the director’s best stab at doing John Carpenter.” The parallel to John Hughes is interesting and isn’t lost on “It Follows”. Particularly, in his regard to sex and how he treats the teenage, sometimes goofy choices of his characters with the utmost respect.

Filmmaker Magazine had an interesting look on the sex scenes: “Her (Jay) enervating encounter with Hugh and Greg’s comforting presence are catalysts for sparks of desire, with Jay at the apex of a triangle including both Greg and Paul. Atypically for teen flicks, sex among the trio is fairly pleasure-free, especially for Jay, who performs like the cold wife in I-have-a-headache jokes.”

IT FOLLOWS-Front Lawn

Sex is never really shown for pleasure’s sake, which actually makes the sex scenes some of the most interesting to date. Whether it’s Jay riding Hugh in the backseat of his car moments before being chloroformed, Greg eagerly pumping Jay in her hospital bed under the guise of wanting to understand what she’s seeing (a very clever take on the lengths men will go through to get laid), Paul’s awkward attempts to capitalize on bedding Jay finally being fulfilled towards the end of the film, or the intense sequence where Jay strips and paddles out into the water towards a boat full of men, presumably to pass the curse off to one or all of the men aboard.

The sex serves a purpose to Jay that is not pleasure. It aids the plot, so that we’re not merely watching teens bone for the hell of it. As Desiree Akhavan (“Appropriate Behavior”) put it, “To me, the best sex scenes are not about sex. There has to be a reason we’re watching them fuck.”

IT FOLLOWS-Underwear Mirror

Mitchell asks the question, “what happens when you have sex?” What stigmas linger after? What have you lost? What stains your soul post-coitus? What happens if you don’t have sex? Since, in his narrative, the only way to get rid of the monster, the curse, like the curse of being thought a virgin in the teen world, is to have sex with someone. Not only do you have to have sex with someone, but now that person has to have sex someone else or “the curse” comes back to you. This is a monster of spreading sexuality without any of the pleasure. It’s not about enjoying it, it’s about getting it over with.

The soundtrack and production design were both winners. The score was composed by Rich Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace. I love the electronic score that has been playing in Adam Wingard’s movies and now Mitchell’s. It’s very cool and effective and pairs nicely with digital imagery. Electronic music, digital imagery, it’s a match!

In “It Follows”, technology is never rooted in any specific place or time. The TV sets are the old box kind with rabbit ears. There are landline telephones. The cars in the suburbs of Motor City are all outdated. Yet, one of the characters resembles a modern day hipster and is seen regularly reading from a seashell shaped, makeup compact-like e-reader that is not of this world, or maybe futuristic. The effect is that this movie is not a throwback to the 1970s/1980s anymore than it is a modern storyline. It is timeless. It is iconic.

Mitchell on production design in Filmmaker Magazine: “Those were all used to place the film a little bit outside of time, like in a dream or a nightmare, but there are elements from several decades, from the ’50s to now to things that don’t actually exist. When you watch it, you start to pick up on these elements, and it’s a little disconcerting, and in the back of your mind, you’re searching for something to ground you and tell you where you’re at. We were trying to avoid all that. I worked really closely with the production designer, and he did a great job of mixing and matching all these pieces. It leans in the direction of the ’70s and ’80s, but it’s a nice mix.”

IT FOLLOWS-Jay Pool

Mitchell is an exciting filmmaker because he seems to be going against an idea I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It’s an idea implanted in my brain by a comment Bret Easton Ellis made on one of his opinionated podcasts. He states that younger filmmakers haven’t lived life enough to make original art. To paraphrase, Ellis says younger artists choose their decisions in their movies based not on what they know about life, but rather what they’ve already seen in movies.

I’m still debating how I feel about this comment but it did get me thinking about movies that I like very much, particularly Wingard’s “You’re Next”. Going further, Wingard’s latest movie “The Guest” is an even bigger throwback to older horror movies, a blend between John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “The Bourne Identity”. You can throw Ti West’s “House of the Devil” in this mix as well, as the only thing I liked about that movie was its 1980s look and pace.

Ellis got me thinking is nostalgia for old movies I like a reason to like new movies? I’m sure in some ways the answer is yes. But it doesn’t quell the question of where will our new horror movie come from if we spend all our time referencing older horror movies? Then again, this has worked for Quentin Tarantino.

I think Mitchell’s “It Follows” is as close as any to an original horror picture. Although I think his movie is very similar to Wingard’s style (Maika Monroe, electronic soundtrack, 1980s aesthetic), at the heart of “It Follows” is something very personal to the director. And not personal the way I think things are for Wingard, which, for kids who grew up loving movies, references to movies we love are very personal.

But Mitchell taps into something deeper than love for movies, he taps into his feelings.

He taps into his own dreams: “I had it when I was very young, the nightmare. I had it several times and I still remember images from it. I didn’t use those images for the film, but the basic idea and the feeling I used. From what I understand, it’s an anxiety dream. Whatever I was going through at that time, my parents divorced when I was around that age, so I imagine it was something to do with that.”

Mitchell isn’t drawing his horror elements from things he has seen in movies, (although he does know horror movies), he draws them from his own life.

The point here is that if you want to make something new and exciting, something nobody has seen before, something, I believe, like “It Follows”, then you have to break away from pastiche and get back to the roots of art, which is to express whatever you inherently know to be true, the way you know it, and the way you feel it. The way we feel Mitchell’s anxiety in “It Follows”.

Sorry To Write a Book When I Was Only Required to Write a Comment

“Hey look a new comment! Oh…”

I’m just going to go ahead and start a new category for my blog posts titled “Blogging” because I seem to have been only blogging about blogging lately. This is another attempt at blogging quickly and regularly, without first starting out with a blank Word document and thinking it over to death, in hopes of freeing my mind of burden so I’ll post more often.

I enjoy looking around at other people’s blogs. I always check out the Freshly Pressed page and read the ones that stick out the most. I find I get some of my best independent journalism, funniest stories, and most interesting non-fiction from reading people’s blogs.

And when I like a post, I follow Word Press’ tips and am sure to “like” and comment on it. But when looking at the size of my multi-paragraphed comments compared to other commenter’s, I feel like an overachiever…or worse that kid everyone hates in the classroom.

I try my best to give at least one quoted line from the post and my comments on it as well as other specifics so the writer knows I really read through it and have something to say. And I like to be as positive as possible, always thanking the blogger for sharing, especially if it was a personally honest post.

I just hope people don’t get freaked out by my long-winded commenting approach. If I write a lot, it’s usually because I liked your post a lot. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing.

P.S. I love when people reply to my comments with equally long-winded notes. That just makes me feel all warm inside.

 

My First Blog Post from My Smart Phone: An Attempt to Learn How to Blog Daily

This is a blog post written and posted from my iPhone. I’m aware that this is not major news to many bloggers who probably blog on the go all the time but this is nerve wracking territory for me.

I always post from my computer. I make a word document first and proofread and all that good stuff before posting. I’m just waiting to see how many spelling errors and autocorrect fails there will be when I’m done.

Moving on, I’m taking this minuscule step out of my comfort zone because I’m trying to figure out how the hell people can blog on a daily basis without being paid to do so.

I’m an aspiring writer. I write every day in order to get better. I write different types of things though. Not always blogs. In a good month, I’m lucky to have maybe 4-5 blog posts. One or two a week is great.

But I’ve been told before that in order to have a successful blog (whatever that means) and increase traffic then you really need to blog every day. How is it possible for someone with a full time job, going to school, being an avid party animal and good time enthusiast to post a new, entertaining blog every day?

Truthfully, it’s probably not so complicated. I really should learn to trim down my thoughts and post shorter blogs. Keep my topics precise and my thoughts clearly simple.

I’d like to ask my fellow bloggers what they think. How do you maintain a rigorous blogging regime? Do you post on the go? Do you worry that what you’re posting isn’t all that meaningful or “worth” the Internet space it takes up?

Help this nervous, recreational blogger form a steady habit of daily blog injections.

Abuse of Social Media Makes for Good Entertainment: 2 Celebrities Who Stand Out Among the Rest

The internet is the modern day wild west. And just like every character in a western film owns a gun, everybody these days has a smart phone in holster linked to Twitter, Facebook, and blogging accounts. However, as westerns have shown us, not every gunslinger was a good shot and not every modern day corpulent social media cowboy hits the target.

“Sext me.”

Celebrities can be particularly annoying when stepping out of their field of expertise; whether that is film, music, science, etc, and start unloading their personalities on the world via tweets. There are those uber-cheerful celebs that ask their millions of followers “How are you today?” as if they care to read the responses of every ugly low-life on their feed. Sometimes there are even celebrities that just like to stroke the ego, via Twitter, of other celebrities so that everyone can see how cool they are, being famous together and all.

But sometimes you get those wild card celebrities that act out in social media. They use their accounts as a platform of assault on a world that doesn’t get to see them on a daily basis. Two people that use Twitter and blogging distinctly originally are author Bret Easton Ellis and pornographer James Deen.

Bret Easton Ellis is the critically acclaimed author of American Psycho and other novels, some of which have been adapted into Hollywood movies. Although Ellis has had his fair share of criticism regarding the harsh subject matter in his books, he is typically forgiven and seen as one of the greater writers of his generation.

But he seems to be less forgivable on his Twitter account with his harsh, criticizing, often explanation-lacking tweets that he tends to post manically in flurries spanning over hours at times. This barrage of opinionated messages can only be explained as a “tweet rage.”

The critical backlash for Ellis’ tweets are on display in an article from the Huffington Post titled “Why We’re Unfollowing Bret Easton Ellis” where they provide evidence of their disapproval in this section:

“Last year, he compared watching TV show Glee to “stepping in a puddle of HIV.” Last month, he said on Twitter that an actor was too openly gay to play a heterosexual character. In July he called an unpopular figure “a complete and total old-school fucking Hollywood loser.” When JD Salinger died, he tweeted “Yeah!! Thank God he’s finally dead. I’ve been waiting for this day for-fucking-ever. Party tonight!!!” Today he called David Foster Wallace (who didn’t like Easton Ellis’s work either) “the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation.”

So much hate from such a seemingly nice guy.

This disapproval is mirrored by the New York Daily News as well. It’s easy to see why so many people are bothered by Ellis’ unapologetic assaults in under 140-characters. But I personally think he’s the most interesting account I follow.

I can’t say I agree with half the things he posts about; particularly the awful, ignorant remarks about legendary author of The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger. I also find myself confused about his musical tastes which sometimes rival the rants of Patrick Bateman before axe-murdering someone.

And as a movie lover, I found his picks for best and most overrated films of 2012 quite skewed. His tweets state, “Most Overrated 2012: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, The Sessions, Looper…” and “Best 2012 movies so far: The Kid With A Bike, Magic Mike, Prometheus, Chronicle. And with reservations: Argo and The Dark Knight Rises…” I wrote about my love for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and it is currently my favorite film of the year. Before that Moonrise Kingdom held that distinction. And although I liked Prometheus I can hardly hold back a laugh at the argument for Magic Mike or Chronicle but maybe that’s just me being too snooty and a movie-criticizing prick.

“I hadn’t noticed.”

Either way, I think Ellis is great for using Twitter to its fullest; as a platform for someone to send their most opinionated thoughts out into the world. As a novelist, he can weave his personal opinions into his fiction but unless he writes an autobiography, those words will never be completely true to his own beliefs, but instead those of the story. Twitter allows him to cast his voice over the microphone. And even if he’s spewing vomit at the audience, he at least does it in style.

Another celebrity that uses social media with some distinct flair is James Deen with his blog. Now “celebrity” is in the eye of the audience here. Deen is certainly a star in the adult film industry but it is also true that he is leaking into mainstream society with interviews in GQ and Esquire. He’s porn’s boy next door.

James Deen is the real life Dirk Diggler, for better and worse. Deen ditched Diggler’s foray into the music industry for a leading role in a mainstream Hollywood film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ The Canyons, starring opposite Lindsay Lohan. Am I throwing around the term “celebrity” too much if I call Lohan one as well?

Deen’s blog features a collage header of photos of himself ranging from him kissing a beer to posing alongside a porn actress with semen dripping from her chin. All of this labeled with a title and tagline that seems to sum it all up: “James Deen Blog: Boobs, Buttholes, Burritos.”

This site brings me such joy to read because it is everything I would have ever imagined a daily blog would be for a guy who gets paid to have sex with women every day of his life. Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films of all time and reading Deen’s blog is like sifting through the diary of Dirk Diggler if he were living in this decade.

His blog reads as a shining example of a generation of kids that have been typing most, if not all of their lives via texts, Facebook, Twitter, and school papers; but yet still see no use for punctuation or even capitalization.

“Hey, that’s not true about the punctuation. I’m always on time!”

His small paragraph rant-style blog posts consist of dozens of ellipses between sentences.

These posts also have such ridiculous, blatantly low brow, to the point titles as: “James Deen Lindsay Lohan Party Awesome Experience,” “Dillion Harper Vagina Tan Line Sex Bed,” and “Bondage BDSM Outdoor Rough Gangbang Sex Party.” And those are just the most recent posts. They go on and on like that.

Deen’s posts read like the disjointed stories from that cool, older kid that was held back a few years in junior high school; often mentioning a girl’s “really cool boobs” or how he “anally banged her asshole.” His words are enough to transport any adult male back to the gym locker room where we sat and giggled through a hand clasped over our mouths at smuggled dirty magazines.

Deen also seems to have zero attention span in his blog entries, which are probably typed out and posted from his phone while driving from one shoot to another around California. In one entry about a scene he was shooting, in what must be a form of flattery from Mr. Deen, he states: “i have never met christy mack before but she is pretty foxy and not too shabby at putting penises in her.” He goes on to display some serious drifting thoughts:

“i really adore asa (Akira) and want to make great things happen for her.  like build her a house or something.  i guess that is selfish because i have always wanted to build a house… maybe win the lottery?  nah, i would somehow try to get in on the winnings and get some money.  orgasms!!!!!!!!! i want to give her many many orgasms.  and hell i will throw in christy mack too.  FROM THIS MOMENT ON CHRISTY MACK IS THE PROPERTY OF ASA AKIRA.  it has been written therefore it is so.”

Deen stepped away from writing about sex for a moment in a post titled “VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE” where he used a bunch of exclamation points to urge his readers to go into the voting booths on Election Day and select “no” on Measure B, a California mandate requiring all porn performers to wear condoms. Deen was firmly against the act but later stated that he didn’t care if you voted for it as long as you made an educated decision: “therefore i believe you should make up your own decision based on whatever information is presented to you and i should have nothing to do with influencing your vote.”

Deen’s blog is very entertaining and never claims to be anything other than what it is; the diary of a young, successful adult film actor on the daily roller coaster that is his life. In short, it’s a blog about “boobs, buttholes, (and) burritos.” I can live with that.

After a year of blogging and using Twitter I sometimes find myself questioning the purpose of why I do either. My blog never really had a mission statement the way I see so many of my peers do. It’s always just been me talking about whatever I feel is interesting or necessary to write about. My Twitter is much the same; a micro blog for my opinions and a way of spreading links to my films and blog posts while trying to shout at celebrities.

Seeing two experts in their craft use Twitter and blogging to their benefit, the way Ellis and Deen have, gives me pride in where I’m going with my social media sites.

 

3,000

Today marks the day that I discovered my blog has gotten over 3,000 views after one year and two months of being birthed to the internet. I’m not sure if 3,000 views in one year is a milestone worth bragging about but I feel accomplished.

I wonder who those 3,000 people are. What percentage of them fumbled into my thoughts by mistake, searching for Patrick Bateman or Axl Rose, only to quickly close out the window, as I have done many times myself, when discovering the link is some stranger’s blog?

Just a blog.

Hopefully half, or even a quarter of those views actually poked around a bit; reading at least most of an entire post. I wonder if my thoughts were worth their time; holding any entertainment value?

3,000 views. 6,000 eyes. 48 blog posts. No defining theme amongst them except maybe sorting out my life. But who’s that interest other than me? However, with each post, a reader reads and maybe they take something away, as I do when I read other people’s blogs.

3,000. Ten times more than the Spartans of 300.

I’m thankful for the summer night last year when I started this blog with a bumbling post that had nothing to do with anything, but everything to do with kick starting the engine of this new writing outlet.

3,000 views later and the world hasn’t shifted, ocean tides have not moved as a result of my force, the stars do not shine any brighter, and my coffee doesn’t taste any sweeter. But my fingers tap! tap! away at my keyboard. And I get closer.