Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It Follows At The Glasgow International Film Festival

It Follows 2014 film horror david robert mitchell poster

This past week (well, now two weeks past thanks to my terrible work ethic recently) was certainly one of firsts! My first swing dance aerials workshop for one. It was...interesting, shall we say? The next day, I had muscles hurting that I didn't even know I had.

swing dance lift ben thompson bum drum
Here we see me elegantly tossing a poor young lady between my legs.
Secondly, I finally got myself organised and booked tickets to see a few movies at the Glasgow International Film Festival. Now, I've been to the Edinburgh one before so film festivals ain't new, but this time my good friend Kate and I decided to go along a midnight horror screening; a showing of the new supernatural teen creeper It Follows to be precise.

So what's it about? It Follows is the tale of Jay, a girl who, after getting up to some of the 'ole one-two with a young gentleman, finds herself being pursued relentlessly by...something. And if it ever catches up to her, things are not going to turn out pretty. We've got the set up for a perfect mix of unrelenting supernatural horror and the classic sex-means-death slasher cliché! If past experience is anything to go by, there's going to be some amount of blood spilled before this is over.

It Follows 2014 film horror david robert mitchell swimming pool blood
Pools of it, if you will.
If you thought that, you would actually be refreshingly wrong. Not in a long time have I seen a film take a concept which could have been laboured to create buckets of intensity and rein it in as far is it could feasibly go without just recording someone chilling out in a beanbag and saying "So like, what if there was this monster, right...?". The body count is ludicrously low for a movie that happily hangs around in the teen slasher part of town, but then again it's less getting in with the cool kids on street corners and more sitting in a nearby coffee shop, people watching and reading Dostoyevsky. This is all about de-constructing the genre and creating something new from concepts that had become old hat way back in the 80s; and for the most part it manages to do just that while simultaneously creating a tense, enjoyable flick full of style and atmosphere.
It Follows 2014 film horror david robert mitchell chair tied underwear
Do you think the scrapped new Blogger policy would have counted this as inappropriate nudity...?
Despite being extremely subdued I would almost say that the director, David Robert Mitchell, could have gone even further. The captivating opening sequence of a young girl dashing frantically about a quiet suburban street torn right out of John Carpenter's Halloween (this movie is evidently what you get when a generation of kids who grew up with those 70's and 80's horror greats start making their own films) ends rather messily with a mutilated corpse discarded on a quiet beach. Frankly, the gore was unnecessary and disillusioning; pulling you out of what was otherwise a beautifully tense and stylish take on the "first victim" pre-credits trope.

Actually, the whole movie is just oozing with style. You can thank the cinematographer Mike Gioulakis for some beautiful framing and adding some much needed depth to the shots in the film. So much is happening in the background of the shots that it really makes the environment feel real and three dimensional; it's helped along with some really nicely utilised 360-degree takes (see opening sequence) that help pull you in and build this quiet slice of suburban Detroit all around you.

It Follows 2014 film horror david robert mitchell detroit derelict house
You can really feel the used needles between your toes.
The costuming, something which I hardly talk about, is wonderfully subtle but effective. It wasn't until after the movie ended and I was walking home that I realised that every iteration of the shape-shifting monster was dressed rather unusually. Old-fashioned long-johns, onesies, hospital gowns. All the sort of stuff that a person, for whatever reason, might sleep in; something which ties perfectly into the very dream-like, nightmarish atmosphere of the whole movie. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but it certainly added an extra element of retrospective chill to the experience for me. See what you think when you watch it.

A major shout out also has to be given to the sound design and music, which is unsettlingly stellar throughout. Those eerie squeaks and screeches, and vast expanses of dreadful silence prove that less is definitely more when you're working with a horror. All too often is a scare signposted to the point of farce by a rising plinky violin, but here the most terrifying scenes have little to no music; and the scares are insidious, creeping up on you like the titular unrelenting antagonist with painfully determined patience.

It Follows 2014 film horror david robert mitchell monster boy dungarees
Something which helps make the jump scares spot on.
It's not all peachy though. Being a film intent on taking old genre tropes and dissecting them with style, It Follows was guaranteed to end up getting hoisted by its own petard. Although it does for the most part manage to skirt deftly around the pit of tired clichés that plague the teen slasher genre, there are a few moments that do let the team down a little. Most obviously is the supposedly strong female lead (who, for the vast majority of the film, manages to hold her own) ending up helpless against the monster and needing to be saved by the film's dorky love interest. If you really look into it, the finale of the film does have a worryingly "White Knight" feel about it that could rile the more feminist among us, which is really contrary to many of the themes of burgeoning emotional and sexual maturity and responsibility that underline much of the movie's message. It feels to me more like a lazy decision for the sake of suspense than a purposeful rug-pull courtesy of the patriarchy, but it curdles the milk nonetheless of an otherwise well chilled orange whip of horror. Sorry, I recently hosted a Blues Brothers party...

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Being Pursued By A Stalker Copycatting an Old Murderer - 
Unsettling  terrifying. The eerie familiarity of the whole thing almost makes it feel like it's not real, but it does mean that sometimes you can see what's coming next.

No comments:

Post a Comment