REVIEW: It Follows

27 03 2015

It FollowsIn his soon-to-be classic modern horror film “It Follows,” David Robert Mitchell can even make a pronoun terrifying.  The word “it,” when standing alone in American slang, has referred to an appealing aura of sexuality dating back to Clara Bow’s 1927 romantic comedy “It,” which popularized the phrase “It Girl.”  But for Mitchell, “it” becomes practically a proper noun, one that refers to a haunting specter that stalks down a teenage victim after being passed on through sexual intercourse.

“It Follows” speaks the subtext that runs through a great number of films in the genre, turning implicit punishment for carnal impropriety into a tangible STD horror story.  Maika Monroe’s college-aged protagonist (or, dare I say, the “final girl”) Jay Height gets the story going by swapping fluids with her older boyfriend, Hugh, and subsequently contracting his condition.  Through this exchange, Jay becomes the main target of “it,” a spirit that can inhabit any body and is dead set on taking a victim, unless she passes the burden to someone else.

The story and premise almost sound comical when laid out in terms like those above, especially considering that Jay stubbornly and irrationally refuses to transfer the evil spirit.  Yet Mitchell’s impeccable technique make laughter practically unthinkable in “It Follows.” The film is far too unnerving to allow for such sentiments to bubble to the surface. Mitchell puts the typical, derivative offerings of horror to shame as he creates a work that stands as one of the best executed films in recent memory irrespective of genre. He combines the psychological madness of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” with the all-out bodily terror of “Black Swan” for one bone-chilling experience.

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REVIEW: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

15 06 2011

Any good movie fan instantly associates insane asylums with “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” Milos Forman’s classic that is one of only three films ever to score Oscar’s Big Five (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay).  It’s a ridiculously unfair standard for any movie to be measured against, so naturally, when a movie like “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” comes along that treads similar waters, it can’t help but disappoint coming straight out of the gate.  The dramedy just exacerbates the disparity by dealing with the thin line between sanity and insanity in a noticeably more juvenile manner.

The movie piddles around in the messed-up mind of narrator Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), a suicidal teenager who checks himself into a psychiatric hospital after failing to execute a plan to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.  As we find out, he’s just a little misunderstood, buckling under the pressure of being a teenager in the modern world.  And since I’m eighteen and heading off to college, I should totally understand and relate, right?  Wrong.  Craig is hardly a sympathetic character, and Gilchrist portrays him so awkwardly that it’s really hard to care about anything that happens to him.

Thankfully, directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden – who have fallen far from their 2006 debut feature “Half Nelson” – don’t saddle us with only watching Craig deal with his demons for the whole movie.  They stock the nuthouse with other mildly amusing characters, primarily Zach Galifianakis as fellow patient Bobby.  He brings a few laughs but mainly makes you wonder whether Alan from “The Hangover” belongs in an institution since he’s not all that different from his character here.  There’s also some corny, schmaltzy romance between Craig and Noelle, played by Emma Roberts, which doesn’t work at all since the two have zero chemistry.  It’s hard to believe this movie came from an esteemed novel, so do yourself a favor and watch the aforementioned acclaimed movie based on an acclaimed novel.  C /