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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Random Review: It Follows (2014)

Do I have anything to add to the conversation going on about this movie? The synth score, the beautiful cinematography, naturalistic performances. The horror community is falling all over themselves for this movie. Me fangushing all over the internet will only add to the numbing collective shriek that surrounds this movie. Screw it. Here it comes.

I was not expecting to like this. There has been so much hype around it I was growing suspect. I heard the soundtrack was interesting, but some horror fans I trust saw it and were underwhelmed. I stayed away in the theater. Hype machine isn’t going to get me this time! I should have gone to see it in the theater. Those wide shots would have been nice on the big screen.

The big influence that people throw at this is John Carpenter. Sure, it has some of his play book going on, and I appreciate that. Carpenter is my main guy and when I see people send love his way I’m happy, but what I saw while watching was Brian DePalma by way of Dario Argento. The shots were so well choreographed ala DePalma, with the long pans slowly building tension and telling the story through the visuals. The vivid colors and stylistic lighting choices reminded me of European horror. The dream logic of this world reminded me of Argento on a good day.

What grounded this wild premise was the authenticity of the protagonists. The young adults dealing with this problem are so normal, so comfortable with each other, I never doubted they’d been friends since childhood. They had a calm ease that comes from being friends for a long time. They seemed to really care and love one another, their personalities blending, and they liked hanging back and playing dumb card games or watching dumb movies just because they liked being in each other’s presence. So many movies have the most unlikely friends. The jock, nerd, basket case, princess, and criminal usually don’t run in the same circles. In most horror movies they have one stereotype of each group represented, and I always wonder what they have in common and how they suffer each other. In some movies, all friends do is argue and needle one other. I watch some movies and think, “Are these people really friends? They seem to hate each other!”

Is the synth soundtrack awesome? Yes. Did it take me out of the movie? Sometimes. Why? Because it was so aggressively weird that you had to stop and pay attention to it. During the movies big moments, it was perfect, driving the scenes with a perfect accompaniment, but during the quiet scenes, I was listening to the sound track more than watching the movie.

Just to desecrate this temple a little more. The invisible man final confrontation was more funny than scary. If you are going to make this monster have a physical presence, then why hasn’t anyone locked it up in a box by now? I’m no fun. Never mind.

I am predisposed to like this movie as I’ve had this same anxiety in my life. In my case it was a floating metallic sphere, like a robotic eyeball, that was slowly tracking me and always coming closer. Eventually it would catch up to me and do me in. I also believe that everyone has “The Giant Dump Truck of Suck” that is always backing up to eventually dump on them “The Big Sucky Thing” that they will have to deal with in their lives. Some people get the truck as infants, some live charmed lives until they’re old and feeble, but we all get our own personal "Sucky Thing" eventually doled out.

This brings me to what I think the movie is about and why I think it has become so popular. This movie is about our silly lives and all the futile stuff we do to stave off death or keep from thinking about it. By having sex, you are embracing life but at the same time you are biologically acknowledging your own mortality. At the base level, we want to survive death; we want to live on in some way past our allotted years. Death will wipe us out, but maybe having an offspring will keep some part of us on this earth a little longer. Or maybe creating something, a scratch on the wall, will keep us around after we’re gone. We also need to keep our minds off the slowly approaching oblivion. Watching movies, playing cards, going to the beach, falling in love, living busy lives filled with noise, all an attempt to drown out the endless, infinite silence that is on a steady and certain interception with us. I feel that the movie hits some primal part of our lizard brains that knows all this fighting to get another day of sun is ultimately pointless. In the end, like in the movie, we bond with someone, we find a mate, we blur our identities (the two main characters have on matching outfits in the end), we cling to one another and throw parties and wait out the rest of our days together. Doesn’t change anything. Death is always coming. It always wins. This movie is about the trivial little things we do while we wait for it to show up. It’s a downer, depending how you look at it, but it is an honest meditation on the subject, and like The Babadook before, it is a great metaphor for how real horror is never defeated, but eventually accepted as a natural part of existence.

Note to the reader, I am turning forty in a few weeks so I may be enjoying a midlife morbidity phase. Sorry about that.

Sam Drog

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