The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Mainstream horror movies tend to be trend-driven. Right now, the big trends are remakes and paranormal chillers. (Also, remakes of paranormal chillers – there's a Poltergeist reboot coming this summer.) Look to the independent world, though, and you'll find that some really edgy, innovative things are going on with horror. Pictures like The Den, Jugface, and The Babadook are bringing original ideas to the genre, with amazing results. To that list, we can now add It Follows, a most unsettling and effective fright film.

A young woman named Jay Height (Maika Monroe) goes on a date with a seemingly nice guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). They have sex in his car, after which he chloroforms her. Jay awakens tied to a wheelchair. Hugh explains that he has “given” her something. It is some kind of malevolent supernatural entity that is passed through sexual contact, and it can take the form of either a loved one or a total stranger. However it appears, the thing will walk directly toward her, following wherever she goes. No one else will be able to see it. The only way to get rid of the entity is to pass it on. If it touches her, she's dead. After briefly showing her the being, Hugh drops her off in front of her house and disappears. Jay does indeed begin seeing dead-eyed people approaching, each one more disturbing than the last. Her friends – Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and Greg (Daniel Zovotto) – attempt to help her find a way to stop the visions, including whisking her away to a remote cabin where it will take some time for the thing to catch up. Her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) offers support, too. It becomes apparent that Jay will need to have sex with someone else to rid herself of the entity, although that idea terrifies her.

It Follows is not necessarily a horror movie that makes you jump out of your seat, although there are a couple good scare moments. The real impact of the film is in its deep-seated creepiness. This is the sort of picture that burrows under your skin and makes you feel ill at ease. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) finds terror in a very simple image: someone walking in a straight line. That's something you see every day. The film effectively plays on the idea that Jay never knows for sure who's just an ordinary person strolling by and who is the evil entity. She continually asks her friends, “Do you see that person?” She lives in a constant state of awareness, knowing that the entity can appear in any form it needs to in order to trick her. As the plot progresses, the stakes become exponentially higher, leading to a dramatic series of events in the last half-hour that start generating chills at breakneck speed.

Mitchell uses a lot of technical elements to add to the overall impact. The decision to shoot with wide-angle lenses gives the movie a rich look, while also allowing a lot of information to pack the frame. This makes it harder to figure out where the entity is in scenes with crowds. The director also knows when to hold his camera still and when to move it in such a manner as to create a sense of unbalance. Intentionally making it difficult to ascertain whether the story is taking place in the past or in present day is ingenious, too. These things give It Follows a very distinct atmosphere that sucks you in. A masterfully ominous (and unconventional) musical score from Disasterpeace adds immeasurably to the eerie ambiance.

Even with these incredibly strong elements, It Follows wouldn't work without the right actress in the lead role. Maika Monroe (Labor Day) is the right actress. She turns in a brilliant performance, making Jay's horror and revulsion crystal clear. Monroe captures a very important bit of subtext about the character: Jay thought Hugh really liked her, and the fact that he's left her with this unpleasant consequence to their sexual encounter is an unspeakable violation. The actress is thoroughly credible portraying both the external and the internal struggles of Jay. This is a potentially star-making turn.

It Follows is obviously a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases, although it's one that doesn't sermonize or even call attention to the fact. Instead, it simply lets the audience observe how a seemingly ordinary sexual encounter leaves this poor young woman with something she doesn't want, can't get rid of, and is afraid of spreading. Mitchell allows you to make of the symbolism what you will, right up to the beautifully subtle final scene. Undoubtedly, some of the movie's impact comes from the fact that this (regrettably) commonplace thing is taken to an extreme degree. In other words, It Follows is rooted in just enough reality to be astonishingly disturbing.

This may well be my favorite horror movie of the last five years. It Follows is bold, provocative, original, artfully made, perfectly acted, and creepy as hell.

( out of four)

It Follows is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.

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