You’ve no doubt seen the splendid GEICO TV commercial parody wherein a bunch of horror movie teens flee a nameless terror. Let’s hide in the basement, one suggests. “Why can’t we just get into the running car?” whines an otherwise sensible girl through a storm of terror-stricken tears.
“Are you crazy?” asks one of her meathead pals. “Let’s hide behind the chain saws.” So they do.
Cut to the horror movie maniac who lifts up his scary mask and rolls his eyes at the kids’ stupidity. “Let’s hide in the cemetery,” someone says – and so they do that, too.
That guy rolling his eyes – sans mask and homicidal intentions – was me watching the otherwise critically acclaimed low-budget “scare-the-teens” movie “It Follows.” Especially in the scene where the teen fugitives from the nameless terror come close to saying, “I know what, let’s hide in a deserted house near the lake a long way away from any human being who could help.”
It’s important that I reiterate in my total dissent that this thing rings the bell on Rotten Tomatoes and has received the sort of condescending critical praise that once greeted such low-budget horror films as “Halloween” and “The Blair Witch Project.”
Let me freely admit that it is cinematically interesting all the way through. Young David Robert Mitchell – a former film editor – knows what to shoot and makes artful use of his suburban Detroit locations.
The story is promising at first but ultimately goes beyond silly into complete absurdity, requiring some raw “Boo!” scenes for its scares.
It depends greatly on a teen movie audience being a wee bit anxious about sex to begin with and, especially, when you turn it into an STD allegory.
Which is what “It Follows” is.
The premise is the simple Sex equals Death equation that haunts low-budget horror (see slasher classics “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and beyond). There’s a thing, see, that follows you and ultimately kills you. It’s transmitted from one sex partner to another.
But having sex with someone else is the only way to get rid of it, too. If you have sex with someone, your nameless stalker then follows them, not you, with horrifying murder as the objective. And if they get killed, it circles back and then stalks YOU again.
Bad business, to be sure. And the thing is that the “It” that follows and breaks people in half changes bodies all the time. Sometimes it’s an old zombie woman, sometimes it’s a nude young man. Sometimes it’s a middle-aged man standing nude on the roof.
And always, it haunts its victims by just walking toward them.
Now that’s not bad for a really low-budget movie with very few resources. It’s creative for this sort of thing and could have turned into the movie a lot of critics claim that it is.
Also appealing about “It Follows” is the fact that our 19-year-old heroine – who has sex with a weird haunted boy named Greg – is able to fight back with a whole vest-pocket community of her buddies, including her loving sister. It’s always nice to see kids stick together, you know?
But their solutions to the problem of an STD allegory stalking our heroine are increasingly idiotic, until they get to a hilarious scene in the high school pool that a great classic horror master like producer Val Lewton (see the classic pool scene in Lewton’s “The Cat People”) would have cursed the director for.
And then, no doubt, listened to that director say, “I know what, let’s have them all hide behind the chain saws.”
Its similarity to John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is its self-evident cinematic skill in filming the suburbs married to a homemade electronic musical score.
The difference is that “Halloween” remains a classic about the Boogie Man. “It Follows” is a well-filmed teen audience rip-off.
The trick with exploitation movies is not to actually exploit the audience but to honor them while good-naturedly pretending to do otherwise.
That is not what happens in “It Follows,” no matter how many critics line up around the block claiming something else.
Starring: Maika Monroe, Daniel Zovatom, Lili Sepe, Keir Gilchrist
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
The Lowdown: Teens band together to flee a nameless terror that is sexually transmitted.