Thursday, March 26, 2015

Horror in the quiet mode

It Follows treats horror as a sexually transmitted disease.
We've all seen plenty of movies in which sex mingles with danger, but few have so directly presented the perils of close encounters as It Follows, a movie that turns horror into a sexually transmitted disease.

Director David Robert Mitchell 's debut movie has received a great deal of attention, partly because it goes against the current horror grain of blood, gore and shock.

In my view, Mitchell's mood-reliant movie has been a bit over-praised, but it deserves credit for taking the usual starting point for teen horror -- sex as a transgression for which a teen-ager (usually a girl) must pay -- and pushing it into menacing terrain.

Mitchell's story revolves around Jay (Maika Monroe), a 19-year-old whose sexual encounter with a boy (Jake Weary) results in a singularly devastating consequence.

The young man is being followed by a strange, ill-defined entity that threatens his life and scares the hell out of him. The only way he can rid himself of this horrifying affliction is to pass it on to someone else through sex.

In this sexual game of tag, Jane suddenly is "it."

A disturbing premise sets up a situation in which Jay becomes keenly aware of everyone in her environment and so do we. That's the movie's biggest strength: It has us looking around every frame for trouble. It traps us in its disquiet.

The demon (I use the term as a kind of shorthand, although the movie never really tells us much about the "it" of its title) can appear in a number of guises and is visible only to the person who's being followed.

Once Jay realizes her predicament, she and her initially dubious friends must figure out a way to break the spell under which Jay has fallen.

This demon-busting crew consists of Jay's sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and a couple of friends (Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi).

Fair to say (as many have) that It Follows is more in touch with the insistently eerie spirit of Korean horror than with American slice-and-dice cinema.

That's a definite plus, but I wouldn't say that the developments in It Follows are entirely credible, and Mitchell sometimes seems to be trying a little too hard to up the anxiety ante.

Still, if you like creepy horror, Mitchell delivers enough of it to make you wonder whether security is little more than illusion.

The score by a musician who calls himself "Disasterpeace" helps create the movie's eerie aura, although it sometimes sounds as if a jumbo jet has taken a drastically wrong turn and is roaring through your head.

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