It Follows

Discussion in 'High Def' started by rkellner, May 31, 2016.

  1. rkellner

    rkellner Active Member

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    [​IMG]


    [​IMG] Reviewer: rkellner
    Review Date: May 31, 2016

    Released by: Starz / Anchor Bay
    Release date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $29.99
    Region A
    Progressive Scan
    Codec: AVC, 1080p
    Widescreen 2.39:1 | 16x9: Yes
    2014

    What do the longest running horror franchises have in common, besides recouping their meager budgets many times over? Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Halloween all gave us a really interesting “boogieman” to be afraid of and at times, root for. In today’s world of sequel-itis, it seems odd that more filmmakers, especially horror filmmakers, aren’t making a more concerted effort at giving us new, interesting, never-see it before “boogiemen”. Despite the urban legend of The Slender Man, The Babadook, and It Follows, a gripping modern day Boogieman has not found its way into our collective consciousnesses or cinemas for years. Maybe real life tends to be scarier these days with most horror outings focusing on home invasions or the crazy things that can go wrong as a foreigner in a third world nation rather than focusing on supernatural antagonists. Maybe everyone has just been too obsessed with shiny vampires and writing new chapters for George Romero’s zombies, ie. The Walking Dead to think up some new socially focused “boogiemen” for us to lose sleep over. Thankfully we have It Follows, one of the most captivating horror genre films in years. A glance of Amazon reviews tells me that not everyone feels this way, but let me plead my case.

    The Story

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    The film hits the ground running. An attractive teenage woman flees out her front door at dusk, half dressed, and in full on panic mode trying to escape some entity which only she can see. After a hasty getaway by car, we cut to her saying her goodbyes to her parents on her cell phone as she awaits her impending doom. A mutilated and contorted corpse the next morning by the beachside confirms that we dealing with something that means business.

    inline Image Next we meat Jay (Maika Monroe), her sister and one of her long time male friends as they pass their time hanging out watching old movies, lazing around the pool, and living a fairly carefree teenage existence in the Detroit suburbs. Jay has a been dating a guy from another high school and that night they end up having sex, for her it is her first time. However, what starts off as a dreamy post-coital conversation takes a sharp turn when she is knocked out and awakens to find herself tied to a wheelchair. To make matters worse, her lover starts spouting nonsense about the venereal, supernatural nightmare he has just passed onto her…and just to make sure she believes it, points out the slowly moving naked corpse that is coming after them. The rules are simply laid out: a) the curse is transmitted sexually b) It can look like someone you know or a stranger c) there is only one of It d) if It kills you, the curse reverts back to the previous “owner” e) It can’t be killed f) those who have been infected can see It too. The conditions are fairly brilliant in their simplicity.

    Now infected, and with a slow moving shape-shifting entity stalking her incessantly, Jay has to make the decision or running, attempting to fight it, or to sexually transmit it to the next victim herself…

    inline Image Taking classic horror as a reference, films like Dracula, The Thing, Halloween, and Night of the Living Dead were highly effective at having a central threat that had just enough rules for it to be scary, but never over analyzed or over “back-storied” their characters to the point of unrelatability (modern remakes of classic horror obviously don’t get this!) It Follows gives its characters and the audience just enough information and boundaries for its creatures to be outsmarted but at the same time establishes them as a formidable force. I give kudos to the fact that no teenager in this film looks up amazing explanations of what is going on online or in an old newspaper, or conveniently finds a VHS tape or patient-zero that explains everything and then some. When the final credits roll, the audience is left to wonder where It actually came from and how you may actually defeat It if you were in that situation instead of analyzing the absurdity of aliens, or voodoo curses or whatever explanation they could have given It if the writers decided to take that path. The film is so much more powerful for the purposeful ambiguity of its central creature.

    inline Image Outside of creating a solid boogieman, I love how the film ties it together the fear/anticipation of losing one’s virginity and being haunted by a lurking consequence of one’s salacious actions. Obviously the notion of virgins surviving horror movies and those who engage in promiscuous teenage sex being the ones who are most likely to be offed is nothing new. Heck, it has been a staple of the slasher genre since its inception, but it is rarely treated with the explicit correlation that this film lays out. Sex=Death, or at least the threat of some corpse like entity humping you to death. I appreciate that extra level of the metaphor of the stealing of one’s innocence, especially when the characters have to face the consequences of knowingly passing on the venereal curse to an unsuspecting or willing target.

    inline Image I also appreciate the choices that the script makes, even if the audience will all likely come to the conclusion that paying for a hooker is the most obvious remedy! It paints multilayered protagonists that are trying to wrap their heads around the supernatural situation, but at the same time stay relatable by being a bit awkward, sexually heightened, and very scared. While most of the cast is in their early 20’s playing 16 year olds, they do it convincingly and are all relative unknowns. Maika Monroe, as the lead damsel in distress Jay (an homage to Jaime Lee Curtis perhaps?) has the vast amount of screen time, and admirably holds the film together. She is a great find and really carries the role of the conflicted, sexually awake, vulnerable, and driven teenage female. Everyone else around her gives a credible performance as well, especially considering that they are reacting to things that are invisible on screen.

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    After a couple viewings, I really appreciate the direction by David Robert Mitchell. Considering that this is only his second film after 2010’s The Myth of the American Sleepover, another Detroit teen-centric indie drama about suburban teenagers looking for love…but with 100% less death by zombie copulation, David seems to have nailed the look and feel of how to make a highly engrossing horror film. The elements of shadows, light, color timings and atmosphere, such as the pool scenes and the evening attacks are really spot on. Great shot compositions, excellent slow pan steady cam sequences, weird artsy European camera angles, slow-burns of tension in scenes, effective use of point of views, and over the shoulder action…this is a very well shot horror movie!

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    I must also talk about how the DNA and lesson’s learned from John Carpenter’s Halloween permeate this film. Let me also go on record by stating that I think it is great when a new filmmaker actually GETS what makes landmark horror films good (see remakes of The Fog, The Thing, Halloween, etc for an anti-thesis). Lesson #1: If nothing else, get the mood right. With the literal creeping dread of this film, this one checks that box and then some. Lesson #2: Create a Boogieman that can’t be killed, can’t be reasoned with, and for lack of better terms, is one-dimensional. It exists to kill you. You can pretty much call this movie a sexually transmitted Michael Myers film. Check. Lesson #3: A good creepy score is your best asset. There is the story that Halloween in its initial test screenings was a flop without the iconic Carpenter score. It was only when John Carpenter applied the minimalistic synth score to it, that the movie became something else entirely. This technique works so well with horror films, and the constant presence of subtle odd notes and haunting themes keeps the tension racked up. In the same way, this film works largely due to the score by Disasterpeace. It is the film’s BEST asset and one of the best horror movie scores…period. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, consider this a love letter to Carpenter. See my supplementary review for some extra thoughts.

    Ok, ok…I have been gushing about this film thus far. What are my critical thoughts? My main critique though is that gripping terror is hard, if not impossible, to sustain for 100 minutes. The movie kicks off brilliantly, but it also chooses to start off its opening frame with SCARY, and then follows it up with SCARY, and then SCARY, etc etc etc. I appreciate that the film takes a moment here and there to remind us of the innocence of its teenage characters with talk about young love and the fragility of life…but this movie loses some power by the end. If this movie cut out 10 minutes and tightened up the last couple benign scenes, it would be a modern masterpiece in my opinion.

    Image Quality

    The 1080p AVC encoded transfer on this Blu ray has very solid depth with a colorful lifelike image. For a 2014 movie that was likely shot in HD digital, I expect nothing less. The black levels are great, and it looks solid in motion throughout its series of nighttime scenes and daytime scenes alike. In looking at comparisons of this Anchor bay disk with the German version from Universum Film, and the French version from metropolitan Film, I prefer the US version over the more green tinted German version, and the brighter French version. Based on screen captures of all three, the US one looks “just right” to my eyes for the type of film it is.

    Sound

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on this disk is pretty close to reference material. There is nice use of rear speakers for ambiance, good depth, and punch for Disasterpeace score. To ratchet up the terror scenes, the score aggressively comes at you from all sides at the most tense moments, and the low foreboding bass is handled very well with the HD audio track here. This is a very nice way to show off a home theater setup. In fact, the added fidelity of the score makes this a film that should be watched on blu-ray with nice speakers and a good subwoofer.

    Supplemental Material

    The main extra here is the critic’s commentary moderated by Scott Weinberg, who reviews genre films for DVDTalk.com. He cycles through other online critics such as Eric D. Snider (MovieBS), Britt Hayes (Starcrush), Samuel D. Zimmerman (Shock Till You Drop), Alison Nastasi (Flavorwire) and Eric Vespe (Aintitcoolnews). For the most part, people on the commentary echo most of the thoughts that I expressed above which is ok, as they were broad and obvious topics. The commentary jumps to various phone calls with other critics to get their two cents on the film and various aspects such as cinematography, writing, horror genre conventions, etc. This is decent listen to get some other takes on the movie as a whole. This is an interesting change from the scene by scene style of commentaries; however, I am really surprised by the lack of involvement by the writer, director…heck anyone involved in filming this movie. For a breakout signature film for a young director, I am surprised he hasn’t put his thoughts all over this disk! I would love to hear some of the writer/directors thoughts on the nebulous use of the time period in this movie. Is it the 80’s or present day? Scenes take place in a retro theater and most characters have older cars even though newer ones are readily seen. Everyone has an old tv’s and 70’s styled homes, however some technology exists that is outside of that for some odd reason such as the pocket e-reader of one character.

    Also worthy of your time is a five minute interview with the composer, Disasterpeace entitled "A Conversation with Film Composer Disasterpeace." It is a quick talk, but he touches upon his background, working on the videogame Fez, and his working with the director on the film. For anyone who wants a more rounded conversation with Disasterpeace, please checkout the great episode he did on the podcast “The Damn Fine Cast.”

    Extras are rounded out with some poster art and a trailer.

    Final Thoughts

    One of the more thought provoking and effective modern horror movies in recent memory, I thoroughly enjoyed almost everything about It Follows. It may be being a bit greedy then to say that it is sad that it came so very close to being a modern classic, but one can’t help but think of the magic a more prudent editor could have done here. Either way, gold stars all around for a thought provoking, interesting, original horror movie with credible acting and an AWESOME score by a name that we should all be on the look out for in future scoring assignments.

    Rating

    [​IMG] Movie - A

    Image Quality - A-

    Sound - A

    Supplements - B


    Technical Info.
    • Color
    • Rated R
    • 1 Disc
    • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Supplements
    • Critics commentary
    • Composer interview
    • Poster art
    • Trailer
    Bonus Soundtrack review

    As a first for horrordvds.com, at least as far as my readership goes back, I would like to also write a review of the score. In as much as John Carpenter’s score for Halloween was as pivotal a character as Jamie Lee Curtis or Michael Myers, or the visual aesthetic of vintage Dario Argento movies are synonymous with their Goblin soundtracks, the score from Disasterpeace is my favorite character of this film. It is a modern take on the great minimal synth scores from Cladio Simonetti and John Carpenter with some really interesting tones and choices along the way. I love the fact that the sound mix on this film is in love with the score too. At key points in the film, the score just blares out of all speakers equally, akin to the Goblin Soundtrack to Suspiria which is multiple decibels above anything else in the film, as if to say that the character dialog is secondary to the film score and you better not dare turn it down. I would have to agree.

    While I could write a full length essay here about the resurgence of vinyl records and how the cult of vinyl and the cult of horror movies is an overlapping ven diagram, fueled by some really awesome record labels that are marrying up custom artwork with themed artistically colored vinyl…I will leave that for someone else.

    That said, the vinyl soundtrack here is an amazing package.

    As a bit of a back story, Disasterpeace started off as a videogame soundtrack composer. The director was a fan of his previous videogame score of Fez and obviously heard something otherworldly that he liked in it. In the extras, I find it interesting that Disasterpeace says that he is a non-horror movie fan given the fact that his score works so well here in the horror element. He also states that the director had put together a temp score featuring Disasterpeace’s own work, John Carpenter, John Cage (I assume that 4’33 was not one of them) and Penderecki. This is pretty interesting and informs a lot of the horror soundtrack. Overall, the like score is a great listen away from the film itself as it bounces between mood pieces where there is no apparent threat, to the ones where an attack is taking place and the music and mood get cranked to 11.

    inline Image inline Image
    For those who have a fellow vinyl fetish, the soundtrack gets high marks as well. This was issued under Nicholas Refn’s (Drive, Bronson, Only God Forgives) own sub label with Milan Records. I love the alternate vinyl LP artwork from retro design by Midnight Marauder. I am not entirely sure what the image has to do with the film, but the visual tone is definitely right. While vinyl soundtracks should be focused on the SOUND…the look of this record is awesome. Split light and dark blue colors with splatter effects can’t have been the easiest to produce, but it is pretty cool to hold. This is something cultish that should be owned and treasured and I could not be happier with it for late night, dim light listens.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2016
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  2. Dave

    Dave Pimp

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    Great review and a true modern day classic. I loved every minute of the movie and eagerly await the time I view it again. I love when I stumble across a movie not expecting much and come out awestruck. The last one that really did that to me was Donnie Darko - I was 3 or 4 years late seeing that one.

    Is the movie perfect? No. But I'm not one of those people that pokes holes in the rules and tries to dissect them (fuck you, Tarantino). I simply enjoy the movie for what it is, flaws and all. Reality is left at the door when I hit the Play button.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
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  3. othervoice1

    othervoice1 Well-Known Member

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    Well written review and I loved this movie. I need to watch it again soon.
     
  4. MisterTwister

    MisterTwister The Schlock King

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    So fuck Tarantino for having some legitimate complaints about this film? People suck this films cocks so often that I applaud Tarantino for coming out and saying this film is a giant mess.

    You love it? Cool but don't tell someone "fuck you" for not blindly loving it like some people have.
     
  5. Dave

    Dave Pimp

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    I think Tarantino being an established director was incredibly inappropriate to try and pick apart a new director like that. So yeah, fuck him. He's a dick.

    I disagree with most of his points. A mythology and set of rules was never clearly established. It reminds me of people bitching about gasoline still being good six years into The Walking Dead but they are completely okay with reanimated corpses walking around. Really? We are okay with these 'things' following a person around and fucking the life out of them or whatever, but they can't stand still in a movie theater for a few minutes? Lighten up and enjoy the show.
     
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  6. buck135

    buck135 Kanamit

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    Was Tarantino asked about this film or did he just bring it up? To me it just falls short of being an excellent horror film which alone is very difficult to do with this genre. Tarantino has made some amazing films, but not a horror film. I think every member on this site could easily make a horror film, doesn't mean it's going to work.
     
  7. Workshed

    Workshed Meeting Adjourned.

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    Nice review--especially appreciate the vinyl bonus. Gonna go look for that!
     
  8. MisterTwister

    MisterTwister The Schlock King

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    Oh boo hoo. Cry me a river David. A film with the critical praise such as It Follows deserves to be examined by far more accomplished filmmakers like Tarantino. David Robert Mitchell (who I'm going to assume is a family member of yours) needs to get used to that.

    Tarantino had legitimate complaints about the film and it seems the film's fanbase can't handle that. Get over it.

    Twister out!
     
  9. Dave

    Dave Pimp

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    Disagree, Twister. And it's well known that Tarantino is in fact a dick, as obvious by his inappropriate (and wrong) assessment of It Follows. And instead of trying to disprove a few of my points, you resort to the tried and true 'Oh boo hoo' and then accusing me of being a family member? Yes, all great points in proving I'm wrong (not). Typical 'I have no valid points so I'll attack' offense; found all too often on the Internet.
     
  10. othervoice1

    othervoice1 Well-Known Member

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    I like Tarantino- his movies are great. But he was an ass when talking about It Follows - and IMHO he was wrong. It was a great movie on a low budget and I found it to be very effective - no need to over analyze it. Othervoice out!
     
  11. russweiss

    russweiss Well-Known Member

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    I like Tarantino's movies but also think he is a jerk. I went to a convention in Los Angeles where he was to appear and they had a line for autographs that a lot of fans waited in for over two hours. Well he did speak at the convention and took right off afterwards without signing anything. Now with that said I also believe that It Follows is way overrated. It was alright but nothing special to receive all the praise it has garnered.
     
  12. Matt89

    Matt89 Well-Known Member

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    Lol after the trainwreck that was The Hateful Eight, I don't think Tarantino can say anything. He could learn a thing or two about pacing. ;-)

    How would he have "fixed" It Follows? Shot it in 70mm and made it 4 hours?

    I did like everything he did (for the most part) up until that point though. However, I don't think he's the amazing filmmaker everyone makes him out to be.

    ~Matt
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  13. russweiss

    russweiss Well-Known Member

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  14. Natas

    Natas Cocked in Rhode Island~ Drugs

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    I thought "It Follows" was extremely overrated. Overall I appreciated the film as a fan of horror in general. The majority of the aspects of the film, I dug. Really did. The opening sequence was incredible, the score was cool as shit...... but when the credits rolled, I couldn't help but feel unsatisfied. I thought it was down right boring at times. Like I said, I appreciated the effort but it's not a film I'd ever buy, was not extremely entertaining and I fail to see any rewatch value. The only time I saw it was in the theaters, so maybe I'll give it another shot at home at some point in the not so distant future, possibly my opinions will sway a bit, but I highly doubt it.
     
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  15. buck135

    buck135 Kanamit

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    Here's an Ultraviolet code if anyone would like it:

    ATF4 BCGE TEHY YD42
     
  16. Kim Bruun

    Kim Bruun Resident Scream Queen

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    I watched it last night - for the second time in less than a year - and it still scared me. At one point, I got startled so badly that I let out this big, robust falsetto scream - and I'm a 38 year old man. Any movie that has that effect gets points in my book.

    As per Tarrantino's criticisms...

    I can kinda see where he's coming from. But IT does stop to asses situation on at least one other occasion, when the friends flee the house and it is seen standing on the roof, merely looking at them.

    The criticism about shooting it isn't really valid. Obviously the thing has a physical form. It needs to address physical barriers (i.e. break windows or open doors to enter a house). Obviously it can be harmed (it bleeds). But the movie never explicitly describes the exact biology of IT, and hence breaks no rules by having it survive what we consider a shot to the face. As for IT strategizing, Hugh says of it that it is "slow, but not dumb" - and it's not like it only employs handheld or thrown objects as weapons only once. I'm pretty sure it gives Paul a good whack with a folding chair.

    Okay, now you're just being silly, Tarrantino. Isn't the whole point exactly that she moves from the gorgeously handsome Hugh through the not-quite-as-dreamy-but-still-attractive-in-a-grunge-sort-of-way Greg and ends with Paul, who - no offense to the actor - isn't the kind of guy you'd hold up as the pinnacle of masculine beauty?

    That said, I have no problem with Tarrantino - or anyone else - criticising the movie. I can still enjoy it on a visceral level and appreciate its artistic merits even if it isn't flawless. :)
     

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