It Follows (2015) – Film Review

‘It Follows’ is easily one of my favourite modern-horrors to date, as the film utilizes some amazing cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, alongside an extremely eerie atmosphere and some decent performances, all tied together with an original and engaging story. Overall resulting in a film that’s both very memorable, and very tense throughout.

After a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, teenager ‘Jay’ finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone (or something) is following her. Faced with this burden, ‘Jay’ and her friends must find a way to escape the nightmare, that seems to always be a few steps behind.

Mostly due to the direction by David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover, Under the Sliver Lake) the film feels very polished throughout, as every scene usually plays out very slowly, always using the screen-time to build more tension, which I quite enjoyed. I also found the underlining themes of the film very interesting, as the film’s narrative subtly explores ideas of sexual diseases through it’s unique plot. However, one element of David’s direction I personally don’t like is the lack of any specific time-period for the film’s setting. As although the majority of the film does feel like a classic 1980s monster flick, the film constantly shows many modern devices and cars, in addition to a variety of old films on ‘Jay’s TV. Making the film feel very inconsistent with itself, despite this being an intentional decision.

As a cast of mostly unknown actors, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe and Olivia Luccardi all give decent performances here, as while nothing truly phenomenal of note, all the characters do feel as if they have chemistry with each other. With Maika Monroe being the obvious stand-out of course, as although her character doesn’t get much development, she portrays ‘Jay’ quite well, coming off as a mostly innocent and likeable teenager.

The cinematography by Mike Gioulakis is nothing short of brilliant, especially in regards to many other horrors. As aside from a few too many hand-held shots, the film constantly uses the camera to build tension and paranoia throughout entirety of it’s run-time. As in addition to using the a variety of different shots (many of which contain large amounts of movement) the film also uses the plenty of P.O.V. shots to see though ‘Jay’s eyes, placing the audience in the terrifying position of the protagonist themselves.

One of my favourite aspects of the film is definitely the original score by Disasterpeace, as this synth score really lends itself well to the eerie atmosphere, creating an original soundtrack which is just as tense and chaotic as it is memorable. However, this does fall back on the problem of the film not being set within the 80s, as this original score would fit in perfectly, especially with the two tracks: ‘Heels’ and ‘Title’.

As appose to many other modern-horrors, ‘It Follows’ has an noticeable lack of jump-scares, as the film is usually in favour of attempting to use simple yet creepy visuals hidden within the background of shots, which really gives the film a very fresh feel. ‘It Follows’ also separates itself from many other modern-horrors by having many of the scenes involving the creature take place during the daytime and/or in locations such as: a sandy beach or ‘Jay’s home, locations many would think to be safe.

I truly enjoy ‘It Follows’ from beginning to end, as the film is a genuine horror experience which takes risks and doesn’t simply feel like more of the same ideas we have seen before. As the fantastic cinematography and original score help create a film that we keep any horror fan engaged in this thrilling story. An 8/10 overall, as while the film may not be entirely flawless, I really do hope more films within this genre can succeeded as well as this one does.

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What’s Wrong With Modern-Horror? – Film Discussion

What’s wrong with the majority of modern-horror films?

In my opinion, there’s many different issues modern-horrors/thrillers, although there is a few films that manage to avoid these problems. Such as: ‘It Follows’, ‘The Descent’, ‘A Quiet Place’, ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘The Void’ to name a few. The majority of modern-horrors follow a very similar formula, a group of stereotypical teenagers do something they shouldn’t e.g. find a certain object (Ouija board, cursed book, dead friend/relative’s photo). Or a family moves into a new home only for it to be haunted by ghosts/spirits. These two plotlines are the go-to for most of the new releases now-a-days. But they are unbelievably drawn-out by this point.

Similar to how every horror plot in the 80s was to have a group of teenagers visit a cabin in the woods only to get slaughtered one-by-one at the hands of a serial killer. Sticking to stories that we have become so familiar to means that there is little surprise left for the audience, and the narrative soon becomes very predictable. Another issue with the majority of the stories that are told is the weak characters, nearly every modern-horror has such bland characters it’s difficult to get invested in the story at all. Just because these characters may be killed off doesn’t mean you don’t have to write for them, having some likeable or interesting characters actually makes the audience care whether they live or die, therefore increasing the tension. Of course hiring unknown actors who aren’t the most amazing at their craft also doesn’t help.

Another thing that’s always bothered me in regards to the characters in modern-horrors, is the characters extreme stupidity. The film actually falls less out of reality due to the characters being so unbelievably oblivious to everything around them. It’s understandable the characters would have some doubts the first time one of their friends die. But after two or three, it’s ridiculous the characters still haven’t figured out what the audience has half an hour ago. Even if their curious but not concerned, it’s nothing but frustrating and less-believable. This unbelievability also applies to the attractiveness of the cast, as although I think some attractive cast members is perfectly fine, casting nothing but models takes the audience straight out of the story. A film particularly guilty of both of these things is the Blumhouse production: ‘Truth or Dare’ This film is a perfect example of the problems I have with modern horrors, both in regards to their characters, actors and scripts.

However, it isn’t just the script or actors that’s an issue when it comes to modern horrors, the overall filmmaking of the picture is usually extremely bland. Again, due to the genre, some people may believe the filmmaking isn’t important. This isn’t true. The filmmaking can still be impressive while building tension and fear. ‘It Follows’ is a great example of this, the beautiful lighting, cinematography and original score all give the film style without taking anything away from the eerie atmosphere. Horror soundtracks are a huge issue for me when it comes to most of the films, as it is possible to create a great memorable score without making it just sound eerie. E.g. ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Shining’.

Finally we get to the biggest problem with modern-horror: the classic jump-scare. Jump-scares only really came around in the early 2000s, but since then they have completely invaded the film industry. Not only appearing in horror but everything from action to sci-fi to even superhero films, they’ve now become almost a staple of modern filmmaking. I don’t believe they are an entirely awful idea, they can be used correctly every so often to shock the viewer, and give them a quick rush before the next scene. However, most modern-horrors now essentially rely on jump-scares (most James Wan films being particularly guilty of this in my opinion), and I believe this is incredibly lazy. Horror should be about creating an eerie atmosphere, having creepy visuals and giving the audience some likeable characters to fear for. Almost placing the audience in that situation themselves (Pyewacket being a great example of this). Drawing out shots and using dark lighting/shadows etc. can all help build fear in the audience. Not just throwing ‘spooky’ faces and loud noises on the screen and seeing what sticks.

The main reason all these bad decisions are made when it comes to the horror/thriller genre is mostly due to money, no matter how awful the majority of these horrors are, the reality is that they make money. As these films can be made on a very small budget as they utilize mostly unknown actors and very little CGI or make-up effects. With a target audience consisting of teenagers or horror fanatics who will pay to see the film, no matter how terrible the trailers look. For example the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ had a budget of only £11,800 and grossed over £151 million. The film only having an hour and twenty-minute run-time along with very little actual ‘ghosts’ in it. ‘The Bye Bye Man’ also being another example. Having a small budget of £6 million with a gross of £21 million. Despite awful reviews from both critics and audiences.

In conclusion, modern-horror films are suffering due to both a lack of creativity and a heavy focus on profit. I’m of course aware that film is a business, but in my opinion, creativity is the most important aspect, as without creativity film doesn’t exist. Horror is a fantastic genre that isn’t reaching it’s full potential a majority of the time due to production companies/directors not caring. There’s a reason a lot of indie horrors are praised, as they don’t set out to only make money, may of them are extremely creative and make amazing use of their micro-budgets. Although horror also wasn’t perfect in the past, I definitely preferred it. At least back in the 80s/90s we still had some creative concepts, from killer’s invading their victim’s dreams, to murderous children’s dolls to a hand-held documentary on teenagers finding an ancient evil witch in a forest. The possibilities were, and still are, truly endless. Hopefully soon filmmakers and producers alike will look past the profit and truly see this.

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