It Follows

It Follows ★★★★★

“Every time you see a great film, you find new things in it.”- Roger Ebert’s review of Dr. Strangelove

I may be alone in thinking that It Follows is a great film. That’s ok. For the record, I don’t consider It Follows to be great on its renewability alone. But I’ll begin here, with the spur of Mr. Ebert’s wisdom.

I’ve seen It Follows three times. The first time, what struck me was terror. The second viewing, horror. For my third viewing, I wondered what was left. I was surprised to discover the movie’s sensitivity, its harmony, its conflict with nostalgia, with leaving behind our false Eden as we wrestle with a gory fate. I wonder what I’ll find the fourth time. With each consecutive viewing, It Follows has grown substantially in depth. Surprising, from a midnight horror flick. I hope to write a follow up a year from now. Maybe I’ll think differently then.

The difference between terror and horror is the difference between being suddenly struck by a car, and watching a car tumble towards you from two miles away, one mile away, ten feet away, as you wait helplessly tied to a desert pole. Horror is what Kurtz feels, as he wrestles with disease. Horror is when you wake up one morning and can’t move because something awful, something invisible, is staring you in the face like an old bedmate.

The first time I watched It Follows, I noticed the red ball hit the window. I noticed the tall man stalking from the dark hallway. I noticed the piss. I noticed the naked woman ambling pigeon toed as Jay sits strapped to a wheelchair. I noticed how It seems to prefer the shape of parents, just to unsettle us. I noticed the sexual anguish. I noticed the latticework of blood. So, It Follows began with terror.

The second time I watched It Follows, the fear was different. I noticed when Jay crawls into Greg’s house and climbs the stairs; It, in the shape of Greg’s mother, stands at the end of the hallway, knocking on Greg's door. It stops knocking, and gives Jay one decisive look. It knows Jay is watching. This moment seems almost like a promise. It will find her, and It will kill her. Then again, as Jay drives to the pool, we see It on the rooftops, overlooking the teenagers as they drive towards what seems like hope. They are driving to a place of their childhood, but Jay can’t hide there for long. Because It has seen them. And It simply looks, naked, unmoving as a tree in the wind. Sometimes, a look is more powerful than a step, quicker, more disturbing. Watch Maika Monroe’s performance here. You see her bravery, you see her horror, you see her…is it disgust? These are brilliant moments, moments when the movie chooses to break its own rules. It, THE It, is smarter than us. Why does it need rules?

The third time, I sat down, fully skeptical. I was too ready, at long last, to dismiss the film.

Watching It Follows for the third time, I wasn’t so much scared as I was disquieted and then (oddly enough) consoled, and finally, left shakey, maybe even violated. I felt almost like a tree falling slowly over. The earth moves beneath our feet. This film values its breaks of calm as it does its flashes of danger.

I noticed the eeriness of the film’s technology. What world do they live in? I noticed the back of Jay’s mother, and the wine glass nearby. Is this where Jay will be one day? I noticed the blades of grass Jay balances on her kneecaps. I noticed how, with each time she runs away, Jay finds a moment of calm by looking upwards, to the trees, just to watch them shivering in the wind. I noticed the children playing. One day, they won't be.

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