When an underdog movie builds momentum through critical acclaim from both rave reviews and word-of-mouth, it follows that our sense of anticipation and expectations for it would be higher than they otherwise would be. It can also be a curse in a way because if the movie falls short it would be a disappointment. The low-budget indie horror sensation and Cannes Film Festival favorite ‘It Follows’ is one such example due to the tremendous buzz it's been generating since its initial limited release in early March. Certified fresh with a 96% "Tomatometer" rating, I was expecting it to be great but it turned out to be merely okay.
This isn’t to say that much of the positive reviews are undeserved. ‘It Follows’ is refreshingly different and unlike most of the clichéd tropes that pass for horror movies nowadays. The movie builds suspense and creates its scares not through the usual tired tricks-of-the-trade but through artful subtlety and Suspira-esque sound effects. In fact, the movie moves along at a sleepy and snail-like pace; the shape-shifting boogeymen (and women) terrorizing our protagonist, a plucky teenage girl named Jay (Maika Monroe) who contracted the mysterious curse from her boyfriend like an STD, shamble leisurely after her like they're relentless Romero zombies sans the decomposition and decay (although they have a tendency to stalk her with various body parts exposed). While she’s the only one who can see these "followers," her group of close friends and family make sure that she never faces her fears alone, some of whom are males willing to take the burden off her shoulders by engaging her in sexual intercourse. What selfless sacrifice, eh?
While “It Follows” is a commendable exercise in minimalism and restraint, its lack of truly scary moments is what made it an underwhelming experience for me and prevented me from fully embracing the movie. I can’t help but compare it to another film also about a curse passed from person to person, not through sexual contact but via a videotape you may remember called ‘The Ring.’ The defining scene from that movie (and one that is so scary I will never, ever forget) was the poltergeist girl with long wet strands of hair crawling out of the well and through the TV directly at you. This movie desperately needed a scene like that. It just simply wasn't scary enough for this jaded horror buff in the final analysis.