Trick or Treat 2018: Two Cents Runs But IT FOLLOWS

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

“Sex = Death” is one of the oldest tenets of horror stories, since long before this and other “rules” were codified by Scream in 1996. But perhaps no film has taken this principle to such extremes as David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 chiller It Follows.

The rules of It Follows are punishingly simple: There’s a curse, and whoever is cursed will be pursued, endlessly, by ‘it’, a shape-shifting specter of unknown nature and origin. If it catches you, you die. It walks everywhere, so you can avoid it for a long time, but it will always, always find you. The only way to get it off your trail, even temporarily, is to pass the curse on to someone else via sexual intercourse.

The current curse holder is a young woman living an unassuming life in Detroit. Jay (Maika Monroe) is just going about her life when her new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) suddenly informs her that he’s just passed a lethal haunting on to her, and the only way to save her own life is condemn someone else.

Jay runs, of course she does, joined by her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and friends Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Greg (Daniel Zovatto), and Paul (Keir Gilchrist). She runs as far and as hard as she can.

But…it follows. — Brendan

Next Week’s Pick:

We’re digging deep this week to call up on a relatively unknown film that we’re certain will be new to most readers. In our Trick Or Treat lineup, this is the sole film that neither of has seen before. The Shaw Bros are known for their enormous library of legendary kung fu and Wuxia classics, but they also have a respected run of horror films, notably with director Meng Hua Ho. Based on Malay folklore about a blobby supernatural man-creature, The Oily Maniac is noted for its exploitative insanity and goopy creature, and beloved by the small cult of fans who’ve actually seen it. — Austin

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review on any MCU film to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

Our Guests

Trey Lawson:

It Follows is a well-shot, well-scored movie that I otherwise didn’t much care for. The underlying premise of a slasher killer as sexually-transmitted disease had potential, but in execution the results are muddled at best. Sex is… bad? Except when it’s not? But maybe it always is? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I guess my problem is that a high concept like this begs for more thematic weight. The actual scenes of “following” (for want of a better description) are quite good at building tension, with a palpable sense of dread that builds from one to the other. But I just didn’t feel like I got to know the characters well enough to really be invested in theme as much as I wanted to be, and ultimately the final confrontation was anticlimactic. The ending, which I think was meant to evoke the apocalyptic anti-resolution endings of 1970s horror, was unsatisfying. It’s slick, with a few solid scares, but not much else. This will sound cliché, but it’s true — I wish I liked It Follows more than I did. (@T_Lawson)

Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):

I’ll admit, over the years I’ve struggled to pin down exactly what keeps wrapping me around It Follows. The film knocked me for six when I first saw it, and even after several viewings, still has a hold on me that questionable character choices and slightly wobbly act structure just can’t shake. There’s an undeniable primal draw to Disasterpiece’s synth score, but that really only does half the work. With the rest coming from a lot of canny camera work and unspoken implications that still manage to read crystal clear.

To the former, It Follows quickly trains the viewer to scan the frame for the titular menace after Jay has it passed to her. At first, focus is pulled in deliberately, but it’s not long before the camera settles back and lets the viewer start playing the “…oh shit, was that it?” trick on themselves. The visual language extends to the characters interactions and allows the actors to communicate hard choices, desperate and foolhardy plans, and questionable ethics naturally but clearly. There’s a subtle tweaking of tropes with the final shots framed as more conflict pragmatic than romantic, or bold gestures and crazy schemes resulting in failure and mundane injuries where many genre films would use them as brick to lay the path to victory.

It feels like a cheat to call an off-the-beaten track a “mood piece,” but the vibe sticks to the roof of my mouth because it’s so unsettling in the same way as the subtext of the film. We’re all being stalked by our own relentless morality, but rarely is the metaphor so in synch with a film’s refusal to give the protagonists an out when it can’t offer it to the viewer, as well. We’re left with no explanation of origin or assurance of escape, just a promise of pursuit …and constantly looking over our shoulder. (@BLCAgnew)

The Team

Brendan Foley:

For roughly its first hour, It Follows is about as good as any other modern horror film, if not better. From the riveting cold open, to the establishing of Jay and her circle of family and friends, to the way the rules of how ‘it’ stalks and threatens, it’s all laid out cleanly, clearly, and with the utter confidence of a director completely assured of their vision. That director, David Robert Mitchell, demonstrates an early mastery of mood and tension, creating images and set-pieces that rank alongside the most nightmarishly powerful as any within the genre.

And then…somewhere in there…I don’t know, it’s not that It Follows turns ‘bad’ or anything. It never jumps the rails into idiocy or stupidity, but it’s almost like Mitchell realized, ‘Huh, I actually have to resolve this somehow’. The ending-ending is terrific, haunting and bittersweet and perfectly in tune to the film’s themes, but the film’s big climatic showdown, set in a local pool, is a nonsensical mess that abandons almost all the rules and characterization that had been established by that point for the sake of a battle that wouldn’t have felt out of place during a lesser Elm Street sequel.

It’s a shame that It Follows loses its way a tad, but so much of the film works as a waking nightmare, it’s easy to overlook those shortcomings and luxuriate in the deliciously suffocating mood and dread that Mitchell and his team conjure.(@theTrueBrendanF)

Next week’s pick:

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