[Screen It]


(2015) (Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe) (R)

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Horror: A teenager is terrorized by a supernatural entity -- spread by having sex with someone already affected by it -- that relentlessly pursues and wants to kill her.
Jay Height (MAIKA MONROE) is a teenager living in the suburbs of Detroit with her fellow teen sister, Kelly (LILI SEPE), and their mostly absent mom. When not spending time in their above ground pool and dealing with younger neighborhood peeping Toms, Jay hangs out with her friends Paul (KEIR GILCHRIST) and Yara (OLIVIA LUCCARDI), while also dating Hugh (JAKE WEARY). She eventually decides to have sex with him, but once they're finished, he uses chloroform to render her unconscious.

When she comes to, she finds herself tied to an office chair in a decrepit building at night, with Hugh searching for something. When he spots a fully nude woman slowly walking their way, he informs Jay that he's infected her with some sort of supernatural curse where the slow-moving entity -- that can take the shape of anyone she knows as well as strangers -- will relentlessly try to kill her, and that she must stay alive or he'll become the target again.

She doesn't believe that until she later spots an older woman slowly coming after her at school, a sight only she can see. She begins to worry that she's losing her mind, but other such sights and frights convince Kelly, Paul and Yara that something is amiss, with neighbor Greg (DANIEL ZOVATTO) eventually offering to help as well.

When they eventually find Hugh, he tells Jay that she must sleep with someone else to pass on the curse. From that point on, she contemplates doing just that, all while she, Kelly and their friends try to figure out some way to stop the terror.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Most but not all movie companies offer production notes for the films they release. They're intended to give information about the given movie, its cast and those behind the camera. While they're sometimes useful, I tend to avoid them whenever possible. And that's because they're sometimes filled with all too obvious attempts by the PR people behind them to put a spin on the offering and thus influence the critic or entertainment reporter before they've seen the flick or written their story on it.

Accordingly, I have no idea what writer/director David Robert Mitchell intended with his horror film "It Follows." Was it simply just to unnerve and/or scare viewers? Was it intended as a "fun" spin on the older slasher flicks where randy teenagers got offed for getting off? Or was the filmmaker injecting a theme of practicing safe sex or even abstinence into the work, based on the fact that the plot revolves around a supernatural curse being passed around by having sex?

Without reading any interviews with Mitchell, I have no clue. But his flick -- that's generating a lot of buzz among horror aficionados -- certainly gives new credence to the old STD PSA about sleeping with someone really meaning also sleeping with everyone else they've already slept with in the past.

Thematic or public service intentions aside, the question remains about whether the film succeeds in its primary cinematic quest -- to scare viewers. I'll admit that it has its moments of low budget creepiness, but those calling it the scariest movie in decades or even all time apparently have different criteria than yours truly.

In essence, it's just a variation of the old-fashioned zombie film (slow moving but determined ghastly figures coming after their victim) mixed any horror flick (or even the likes of "Terminator 2" or "The Matrix" -- minus the fun sci-fi angles) where the villain can take the shape and identity of others.

Mitchell has more fun with the former element than the latter that unfortunately isn't used to its fullest imaginative potential in telling this tale. Our young heroine (Maika Monroe) is informed by her lover (Jake Weary) that he's now passed on a curse to her via sex, and that "it" will follow her and can take the shape of anyone, stranger or friend. The twist is that if "it" kills her, the curse returns to him and the killer will be after him once again. So, the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to another unsuspecting person via sex.

Considering that there are both family members (Lili Sepe playing her sister) and friends (Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi), as well as classmates, teachers and so on, the possibilities are endless in terms of who the villain might next show up as. Instead of that, we mostly get those of the stranger variety (and usually showing some or full nudity -- never fully explained why that's the case) coming from a distance. That allows for some suspense, but the director misses the golden opportunity of utilizing his apparently favorite camera technique (the slow 360 degree spin around camera shot) to up the ante. One of the "Paranormal Activity" sequels did something similar and quite effectively. And this film could have done the same to spectacularly scary results -- with each pass showing the zombie like character getting closer and closer, while letting the viewer's imagination fill in the blank spaces of what they can't see during the rest of said spins.

And while I like films that retain some degree of grayness in terms of not feeling the need to explain everything, I kept found myself being pulled from the scenario by a myriad of questions. Those kept popping into my head about various plot elements, character motivations and such. I felt at least some of them needed to be addressed and answered, but never are.

The performance are adequate for what's asked of the cast and what the plot needs, but nothing remarkable or noteworthy. And the characters -- intentionally or not -- occasionally do the standard dumb things that have long populated slasher films, thus slightly cheapening what's otherwise apparently trying to be a slightly smarter version of such pics.

Creepy at times while unfolding but never good enough to burrow into one's psyche and thus raise goose bumps simply by remembering the signature moments, "It Follows" delivers enough scares for those looking for them. For those looking for the next great horror flick, this isn't "it." But it could play well in the arsenal of abstinence-based sex-ed, intentional or not. "It Follows" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed March 16, 2015 / Posted March 20, 2015

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