Horror

Review: The Ladies of the House

May 01 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
The Ladies of the HouseDirector: John WildmanRelease Date: May 1, 2015 (iTunes)Rating: NR  At the end of Rugerro Deodato's infamous Cannibal Holocaust (spoilers for a movie that's older than I am), one of the characters opines to no one in particular, "Who are the real cannibals?" Up until that point, we'd been subjected to the brutality of the cannibals, sure, but so too were we shown the horrors of the Americans who set upon their tribe. They were documenting their own atrocities. "Who are the real cannibals?" it asks. "US!" It's always stuck with me. I was surprised that Cannibal Freaking Holocaust was trying to say something about anything. I'd expected less of it. But silly as it is (and it is silly), I find myself quoting it with probably alarming regularity. "Who are the real cannibals?" Minutes into The Ladies of the House, I nearly shouted at the screen, "THE REAL CANNIBALS ARE MEN!" Instead, I said, "Oh! I get it!" followed immediately by, "Ugh. I don't want to see this..."  To be clear: I wasn't saying I didn't want to watch the rest of the movie (I did), but I could already tell that these soon-to-be victims wouldn't be so, um, victim-y. They would deserve what was coming to them, because they're pigs. They would incite the violence, and when things went badly (as the flash-forwards heavily implied they would), you wouldn't feel bad. Because fuck those guys. In the past year or so, I've realized that I have an active aversion to masculine manly men who treat women like shit. Some films that I've been told were great I just refused to watch because I don't need to see more abuse. The world's depressing enough. And even though I knew there would be vengeance, and it would be sweet (cause they're cannibals, get it?!), I wasn't super excited by the idea of subjecting to myself to more misogyny. Ladies of the House was written by John Wildman and his wife, Justina Walford. I heard about it years ago from some other critics, but last November I attended a Genre movie discussion and Wildman and Walford were on the panel. It was an interesting one, and afterwards I talked with them a little bit. The movie was pitched to me as "Lesbian cannibals in a house." I said, "Cool. When do I get to see it?" (Which is the first thing I say any time anybody tells me they've made anything.) He said, "Next year." And I said, "That sucks." It's one heck of a pitch, though, right? And if you hadn't seen the movie, you might think it sounds like a male fantasy of sorts. I can imagine a bunch of dude bros scrolling by this movie on VOD and stopping. "Sexy lesbian cannibals? Woo! PARTY!"  If I had to guess, those people will be disappointed. They'll like the opening, which takes place in a strip club. They'll like the parts with the lesbians doing their thing. But they probably won't like the rest of it, because it sure as heck doesn't like them. It's important that The Ladies of the House was co-written by a woman, much in the same way it's important that Gone Girl was written by a woman. Misogynistic dialogue is different when it's written by a woman. The words might be the same, but they definitely don't have the same meaning. No one in their right mind could accuse this film of misogyny. It is very obvious what the film is going for and trying to say with its use of over-the-top derogatory language, but at first it isn't so over-the-top. In the strip club, it's disgusting but it's also entirely plausible. There are people who talk and think like that. If you're not paying attention, you might miss the point. At least at first. When it gets into it, you'll know damn well that this is a feminist slasher flick through and through. And you'll say, "A feminist slasher flick? Whoa! Party?" It's definitely a party. A gruesome one, too. Very much so. It takes a while for blood to spill, but once it does, it just goes. It's probably why the film flashes forward early on. In the middle of an uncomfortable moment, suddenly you see this man you're watching being tortured. It's dark and it's quick, but you know what it means. You know his fate. Soon after, you know the second guy's fate. And when you don't see the third, well, you sort of know his as well. But for people who happen on the film and don't know what it is or what it's about, it's important that they see that. They need to know what they're getting themselves into. Not because they should mentally prepare themselves for the horror (though maybe that too), but because there's a whole lot of non-violence that has to happen before it gets to that point. And they need to know there's going to be some payoff. Otherwise, why would they stick around? (Aside from the fact that it's really just a fundamentally compelling narrative, of course.) It's a stylish movie. Sometimes a bit too stylish, perhaps, but I have to give it credit for choosing a look and committing to it. I've never loved the heavy wide-angle/fish-eye effect, but I understand why it's used and how it can be used effectively. It's used here. A lot. A lot a lot. And it works, for the most part, as do all the other little flourishes, but every so often I was paying more attention to the shot composition than what was being composed.  But it doesn't detract (or even really distract) from the narrative that's presented here. In fact, the only thing that really affected my investment in the events was the not-awesome performance by the one guy who could be considered good. He's the voice of reason when his friend and brother are being piggish. He wants his brother to leave the strip club. He doesn't want to go into the lady's house. He doesn't want things to go out of control. But he's soft-spoken and not particularly convincing. It's actually kind of fascinating in context, though, and works in the greater scheme of the narrative. This character "fights" it but doesn't actually put up a fight. He can't put his foot down, and then terrible things happen to him and those around him. Maybe his subpar performance is commenting on weakness of men who don't have the balls to say, "Hey, leave her the fuck alone." Intentional or not, that reading does make his emotionless delivery a bit more bearable. Interestingly enough, the best male performance comes from the worst of the characters. That one who you just can't wait to see die. And you will see it. And keep seeing it. Pretty soon, you'll be uncomfortable with how excited you were to see him punished in the first place. But you'll keep seeing it. Because The Ladies of the House doesn't let you off the hook. Because that "sexy lesbian cannibals" fantasy is just the pitch. It's the thing that gets you in the door. But once you're inside, you realize you're getting a whole lot more than you bargained for. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Ladies of the House photo
Men are kinda the worst, huh?
At one of the various Tribeca press screenings, I was sitting around and talking with a few other NY critics. We were talking about what was coming up the rest of the year, and discussion inevitably turned to the New York Fil...

Visit Trailer photo
Visit Trailer

First trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's next The Visit


Apr 24
// Nick Valdez
M. Night Shyamalan has had quite a lopsided career. I tend to dig more of his efforts than not, but after The Last Airbender and After Earth I'm not so sure. Maybe a return to his horror thriller roots might do the trick? Thi...

Review: Unfriended

Apr 17 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218828:42143:0[/embed] UnfriendedDirector: Levan GabriadzeRelease Date: April 17, 2015Rating: R  Unfriended is about a girl who doesn’t know how to use Cmd+C. Her name is Blaire (get it?), and the film takes place entirely on her computer screen. And I do mean entirely. Throughout, you can see her system bar and her various tabs. There are bits and pieces of a person there, most of which are probably nonsense on close inspection but serve to create a relatively effective illusion of a teenage female. I mean, she has a tumblr. Sadly, you never get to see her tumblr, just stare at the concept of it up in the tab bar while you’re trying to avoid looking at whatever is happening elsewhere onscreen (because you’re me, and you’re very easily startled).  What Unfriended does is complicated. It’s complicated for a lot of reasons, and for that reason alone it’s deserving of praise in a way that, say, Paranormal Activity is not. Paranormal Activity is scarier than Unfriended, but Unfriended is far more technologically compelling. Rather than a couple of people in a house, it’s half a dozen people in as many houses. These people are all linked by a single Skype conversation, one that starts and stops for various reasons. But sometimes it’s going and the audience doesn’t get to see what’s happening, because Blaire is too busy looking at her Facebook. Or at least the Facebook of her dead classmate. I shot a film a few weeks ago. A fair portion of that film takes place in a chatroom or on Google or looking at a narrative-relevant website. I had to make a fake website and doctor Google results. I had to attempt to make these things look like they were real. It was complicated. Now I’m in editing, and I’m running into a different issue: How best to cut between a character and his words? There are a whole lot of different ways to tackle this issue. There’s the recent trend towards chat bubbles showing up onscreen. That’s ostensibly the best of both worlds, but it’s also really silly looking. You can’t have something be dramatic (like my film) or horrific (like Unfriended) and use that effect. So you cut back and forth, but you don’t know how fast your audience is at reading. And you have to hold on the text, but that kills the pacing of the scene, because you want some dead time to look at the face of your character. But you need it to be faster than that, because if people get bored watching some dude in a chatroom, they won’t get to the good parts of the movie. It’s a fine line. You may think that Unfriended doesn’t have to walk it, given that it’s essentially 100% chatroom, but it does. It has to be even more careful, because staring at a Skype chatroom is fine and visually diverse, but an iMessage conversation? For more than a minute? And nothing else? You have to make sure that the pacing of that conversation is flawless, but you also have to make sure that everyone has the time to grasp it. Blaire will go to a website, give the speedreaders in the audience enough time to read something, and then she’ll go over it with her cursor to help along the people who didn’t realize they were supposed to be looking at the ridiculously large text that that forum commenter used on his narratively important response. When she’s having those conversations or looking at those websites, you don’t see Blaire’s face. You have to discern her feelings from her mouse movements and clicks, and the pauses in her typing. You have to assume a lot of things about her and about the way she acts. You need to assume that she’s uncomfortable, and that’s why she paused here, or she was scared and that’s why she rushed. If you can’t accept that, you will have to project your own emotions onto her actions, then you won’t be able to watch this movie for more than ten minutes. She may “be” a “person,” but if you don’t see her in that Skype bubble, she may as well be an avatar in a not-particularly-fun text adventure that you don’t get to control. And hell, even if you do see her in the corner, well, I guess it’s a Let’s Play. A Let’s Play of a really uncomfortable Alternate Reality Game (ARG).  But there’s something fundamentally off-putting about our main character’s inability to use keyboard shortcuts; the act of copying and pasting requires a long and complicated series of mouse clicks. She can’t be like a regular person, Cmd+C, Cmd+V, done. She has to right click… copy… right click… paste. And we have to witness each agonizing moment of this action, over and over again, because she sure does like copying and pasting. (I mean, who doesn’t? It’s super useful. But when your movement is hampered by the fact that your audience might get confused if your character were to use a keyboard shortcut, then you become unrelatable. Here is a high school girl who types and texts like a high school girl, but she’s not a high school girl, because high school girls probably don’t even know that right click to copy/paste is even an option. Why would they? Nobody uses that shit. Except Blaire.) Oh, Blaire. Blaire. Blaire. Blaire. What are we going to do with you? In this group of stereotypes, only Blaire really seemed to like Laura Barns. Laura Barns is the dead classmate I mentioned all the way back when. Exactly one year before this film takes place, Laura Barns committed suicide. Why? Because someone posted a really unpleasant video, starring her extremely drunk  self. The video was called, “Laura Barns Kill Yourself” or something to that effect. People agreed. Then she did. (It’s worth noting that the actual suicide, which you see footage of relatively early on, very easily could have failed to kill her. She held the gun at arm’s length, pointed it towards herself, and eventually pulled the trigger. If the paramedics had gotten there in time, she very possibly could have survived. How traumatic would that have been, huh?)  A year later, she decides to fuck with some people who she may or may not have been friends with. Blaire was one of them, and then the other people in Blaire’s friend group. There’s her boyfriend, Mitch, who is strong (you know that, because his profile picture is of him flexing); Adam, who also looks kind of strong but isn’t Blaire’s boyfriend; Jess, who is blonde; Ken, who is a l33t hacker (you know because he’s fat and smokes weed); and then Val, who is skanky (you know because her name is Val). I just looked at the IMDb cast list and saw other names, so apparently there are other people in the film. Color me surprised, because I can’t remember a single one of them. So anyway: Laura died, right? A year later, she comes back to haunt everyone there. Not because they had anything to do with it, necessarily, but because they’re associated with people who did. Or they didn’t stop her. Or something. I dunno. Point is, she’s out for blood. Yada yada yada. People die. Whatever. But here’s an interesting little tidbit: The film was shot in one take. There were reshoots, of course, and I expect that the vast majority of the things we see onscreen were created in post rather than at the time, because let me tell you, it is difficult to take a webpage and then make a visually identical but slightly functionally different.  When you see a version of Skype that won’t let you end a call, that’s not some quick and simple fix. That took work, whether it was some crazy pre-production development or some graphical finessing in post. It’s. Not. Easy. Nor is doing an 80 minute movie in a single take, but that’s what Unfriended did. They didn’t have to, of course. As we’ve established, many of the characters are offscreen for any number of reasons at any given time. But they did it in one take anyway. A few pickups and inserts aside, this film was done in one go. That’s fascinating, but the fundamental logic behind the decision says a lot about both the actors and their relationship to the source material.  Shelley Hennig, who played Blaire, was having problems with the 10 minute long takes they were doing. She was having trouble keeping the energy up between takes, and to her it seemed easier to just do the whole thing without stopping. Here’s what this says about her: She’s not a film actress. She’s a theatre actress. In an overly long analysis of Birdman, I discussed some of the things that make each unique, and by shooting Unfriended in one take, it actually goes a long way towards making the film a true example of theatre. Or maybe a Let’s Play. (Seriously, this movie is a lot like a Let’s Play.) Here’s what it says about her relationship to the source material: They didn’t connect, not on a fundamental level. She did a perfectly fine job in the film, and I won’t deny her that, but she’s working with subpar material, and she knows that. They all know that. How could they not? It’s a movie about a haunted Skype session. Literally. That’s so stupid! And that stupidity can make it hard to keep up intensity and energy. As theatre, where things can go wrong but you just keep going, there’s a spark of intensity and fire that builds up as time goes on. Film doesn’t have that, because the fundamentals of how a movie is constructed make it impossible to keep building that. You build, cut, rebuild, cut, rebuild. I greatly enjoy film acting, but the things I like about it are in direct opposition of the things I greatly enjoy about theatrical acting. The way that this film was designed meant that they could have their theatrical experience played against some not-so-hot material. They got into character and just went from there. It was a smart move. I imagine that the film, had it been filmed in chunks, would have felt less cohesive as a result. Because if it feels anything, it’s cohesive. This is surprisingly effective worldbuilding. It’s a deadly ARG. I could imagine some elaborately designed websites and forum posts and fabricated Google results that all point to the mistake that all of these characters make: Don’t respond to dead people. If your dead classmate sends you a Facebook message, fucking ignore it. Is it slightly unfair that they only learned that rule after they had responded to the ghost? Yes. But the movie doesn’t happen if everyone’s like, “Lol! I ain’t falling for your shit, ghost!” So we have to have stupid characters who will do stupid things and make stupid decisions. Otherwise there’s no film. You rescind your right to criticize that kind of idiocy when you buy a ticket for a horror movie called Unfriended. But you know what’s interesting about the framing narrative? It’s oddly believable that all of these characters would stay on the computer, that they would, in a sense, keep filming. This is a horror movie where the characters don’t really “split up.” A character goes to check out a scary noise, and he brings his laptop with him. That makes sense. Of course he does! He wants the emotional support of the people closest to him. They try to hang up on the Skype call, but if they open it back up, the ghost didn’t go away. And then if they tried to leave for good? Well, let’s just say they have reason to believe that things might take a turn. If I had been watching Unfriended surrounded by people I knew, it would have been a different experience. I usually refuse to allow conversation while I’m in a theater or even at home watching something on TV. But here’s a different story. I said many, many words ago that I was covering my eyes for much of Unfriended. That’s true. I had one eye closed for nearly the entire runtime. As soon as things got scary, I winced and didn’t unwince until the credits rolled. I spent certain parts of the film staring at the audience. Not their reactions, just the backs of their heads. I knew that what was going on the screen would probably make me scream like a small child, and I really didn’t need anybody to see that. Because Unfriended is effective in the exact same way that Paranormal Activity is effective. There are long periods of time where nothing happens, and then suddenly the loudest goddamn noise you’ve heard in your life blares through the speakers. You jump. It’s not “scary” necessarily, but it makes me jump every single time. I know it’s coming, because absolute silence in movies of this sort is never punctuated with anything but a BANG. But the wait to get to that sound can be agonizing. And when it comes, the results are mixed. Sometimes it's dumb or obscured by weird movement or whatever. And then sometimes it is legitimately fucked up. Nothing in Paranormal Activity actually disgusted me. Several things in Unfriended did. The imagery is just… ugh. (I’m thinking in particular of an image macro posted later in the film. You’ll know the one.) But the imagery comes at key points in the narrative, and perhaps the filmmakers should be applauded for understanding the peaks and valleys required of a narrative like this. When I think about the meticulous sense of pacing that the film sometimes has, I think about this: There's a moment in the film where the ghost sends an image file to everyone in the group. After much discussion (or at least people saying "DON'T CLICK THAT!"), Blaire clicks it. The file takes at least 14 seconds to download. Fourteen agonizing seconds. And you wonder: Is this real time? Are we waiting because they're waiting? Or is this to build up the anticipation of this image, because we might have some idea what it is, but we don't really know. The second image she downloads is done in under a second. The team knew that audiences wouldn't stand for that again. So they didn't make them. They went off to the next trick. They had plenty of tricks available, because there are so many things that can be done with social media and breaking the rules as the characters understand them, but also as we understand them. We can relate to how creepy it would be if suddenly we couldn't drop mysterious figures from Skype calls or if we suddenly couldn't unfriend particularly problematic Facebook friends.  But then again, the film features an extended sequence where Blaire, understandably freaking out, slightly less understandably turns to ChatRoulette to find help. What follows is legitimately bizarre and completely destroys the tension the movie has built up. Throughout, there are moment like that. I wouldn't call the film "self-aware" necessarily, but I would call it "a-typical" in a fascinating way. I mean, as generic as its actual storyline is, its presentation is still unique and executed quite well. It's not the first film to do the whole "Takes place entirely on a screen" thing, but it absolutely is the first film to try it on this scale (the recently released Open Windows is far less complex), and I think everyone deserves props for pulling it off. You could much worse than Unfriended. And that may be the most shocking thing of all.
Unfriended Review photo
Let's Play a game
I went into Unfriended expecting garbage. I told multiple people that I was on my way to the screening, and they asked why. I told them I didn’t know, but I was expecting terrible things. The trailer compared itself to ...

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2inister

First Sinister 2 trailer is, well, sinister


2 Fast 2 Sinisterious
Apr 10
// Nick Valdez
Sometimes I feel like a cynical jerk with the tone I take on most of these articles, but it's very hard not to be a cold hearted movie critic guy person when I have to tell you about so many sequels, remakes, re-imaginings, ...
Human Centipede photo
Human Centipede

Human Centipede 3 gets release date and plot synopsis


Apr 08
// Nick Valdez
When the first Human Centipede, a terrible experiment of a film that gave us new levels of disgusting, released, who would've guessed we'd be talking about a third film five years later? No one. No one could've possibly guess...
Five Nights Movie photo
Five Nights Movie

Warner Bros developing Five Nights at Freddy's movie


Apr 08
// Nick Valdez
Every day I get a bit older, and every time something like this happens, that fact really sinks in. In less than a year, Scott Cawthon's Five Night's at Freddy's videogame series (which follows a night security guard watching...
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Arnold looks grim in first poster for Maggie


Abigail Breslin looks sufficiently zombified
Apr 07
// Matt Liparota
We already knew Arnold Schwarzenegger was going full-on Last of Us with his upcoming movie Maggie. When the first trailer dropped last month, we saw the Man formerly known as Turbo playing small-town farmer Wade, a guy who ju...
Burying the Ex photo
Burying the Ex

Trailer for Joe Dante's Burying the Ex buries itself deep


...in poop
Apr 07
// Nick Valdez
Joe Dante has had a string of mediocre films lately. A formerly quirky name in the horror genre, with films like Gremlins and Small Soldiers, but after directing a bunch of television and whatever exactly The Hole was, his d...

Review: Dead Rising: Watchtower

Mar 26 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219149:42297:0[/embed] Dead Rising: WatchtowerDirector: Zach LipovskyRelease Date: March 27th, 2015 (exclusively on Crackle)Rating: NR  In Watchtower, the zombie virus has spread round the world and the government has issued a super drug, known as Zombrex, in order to cure it. Digital journalist Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) and his partner Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) end up getting caught in the latest outbreak when a bad string of Zombrex infects a stadium full of people. As Chase tries to survive, he runs into a woman who's already infected named Crystal (Meghan Ory), and now they must work together to survive the zombies, figure out what's going on with the Zombrex, and most importantly, escape from the group of psychopaths on the loose.  Watchtower had quite a bit of an undertaking on its hands. If you're not aware of the Dead Rising games, just know they're famous for featuring a single guy cheesin' his way through hordes of zombies while he wears crazy outfits, makes anything he can into weapons, and its narrative is one of the worst in zombie fiction. So, having Watchtower not be a complete mess is already a huge plus. It fixes this by creating a narrative all its own rather than try and adapt the current stories available. In fact it relegates Frank West, here in the film awesomely played by Rob Riggle and one of the series' flamboyantly divisive characters, to the sidelines whereas the film could've completely derailed had its tone focused on the wackiness of that character. Instead he's used wonderfully here. Adding a bit of levity in between heavier scenes and getting the laugh like only Rob Riggle can. A line like "I'll smack you with that TV" works because the film allows Riggle to be as slimy and goofy as he can while paying homage to videogames themselves.  With zombie cinema as prevalent as it is, it's hard not to get a sense of "been there, done that" with any zombie film. We've seen everything from the grittiest of grit to the hokiest of cheese, so Watchtower tries its best to find a middle ground between the two. There is a sense of loss as the film struggles to find an adequate tone for a good chunk of the film. It might be a result of the film taking the subject matter at face value. Meaning that any goofiness the series is known for is only implied, and scenes only come off as inherently hokey. While this shouldn't have worked, I really enjoyed the little asides the film gives to its corniness. For example, in an awesome Shaun of the Dead like fashion, one of the first things the characters do when the outbreak breaks is to use whatever they can find as a weapon. Which means at one point, Chase fights a zombie clown holding an axe with a muffler before running it over in such a cool way. It's a nice bit of staging that you don't see much in zombie media. It's always a matter of a survivor fighting with the one weapon they have rather than literally using everything at their disposal. As for its lead, Jesse Metcalfe holds his own well enough but Chase doesn't have enough character for Metcalfe to sink his teeth into. It's just sort of an every man. That's a consequence of having Frank West be a part of the film too. That character is so magnanimous every time he's on screen, that every thing else loses spark unwittingly. That's not to say the film completely lacks personality, however. There's a scene early on that marries the game's quirk with the film's grit and makes for a particularly gripping scene. It's shot well (as it's just a constant, smooth take following Chase through a field of zombies), there's a bit where a weapon wears out and he has to switch, and it was one of the few times there was suspense. Chase just becomes a super zombie killer after that point, and while that's interesting in its own right, it does lose a little pizzazz. Then again, that's also a shout out to the game series so kudos to the film.  Dead Rising: Watchtower isn't perfect as it runs for a bit too long, the psychopaths wear a little thin (as the lead gets a weird speech explaining his motivations), and there's a jarring first person camera trick used too often early on. But don't let that deter you away from watching it for yourself. A fantastic videogame adaptation that absolutely nails why the games sell so well, yet never feels alienating for folks who have no idea where this film stems from.  As one of Sony's Crackle service's big headlining originals, this is indeed a good show of what's to come. If they can keep churning out excellent films like this, I'll definitely stick around to see what's next. 
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"Zombies, huh? I had a feeling you'd show up..."
Videogames have had a rough time in cinema. Since videogames are such an interactive medium, a film adaptation always misses out on the intimacy of player involvement or the videogame's story struggles to find an identity in ...

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Friday the 13th machete swings back into action with new screenwriter


It's nearly impossible to type that Jason sound out
Mar 25
// Matthew Razak
We all knew Friday the 13th would once again return. As the greatest of all the slasher series it had to. Once Paramount got the rights from WB it was just a matter of time and that time is almost nigh. Paramount has set...
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Maggie trailer has Arnold Schwarzenegger and his zombie daughter


Yeaugh yeaugh choppa yeaugh headshot yeaugh Turbo-Man!
Mar 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Arnold Schwarzenegger's played diverse roles throughout his career: a barbarian, a cybernetic organism, a concerned father, a cop (you idiot), a soldier, a secret agent, a pregnant man, a governor of the state of California,...
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Sharknado 3 has a title


Third movie in SyFy straight-to-TV franchise will air July 22
Mar 18
// Matt Liparota
You'd think two movies about weather-related shark attacks would be more than enough to last the human race until our surely-impending end, but sometimes the world is a funny place. Despite all logic, a third Sharknado f...
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Insidiou3

First full trailer for Insidious: Chapter 3


Mar 18
// Nick Valdez
I couldn't stop laughing at Insidious: Chapter Three's first teaser because a girl figures out she's living in a haunted house through her T-Mobile Sidekick. While I'm resisting that urge right now thanks to a competently pu...

Review: It Follows

Mar 12 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218938:42208:0[/embed] It FollowsDirector: David Robert MitchellRelease Date: March 13, 2015Rating: R A black screen. Music builds, slowly at first, but then faster and faster until the film actually begins. And as it builds, there are only two possible options: Something crazy is about to happen. Absolutely nothing is about to happen. Number 2 is a trick, but it's a common one. The build up becomes total silence on a serene moment. It Follows is Number 2, and the music breaks into an image of a quiet suburb. But quiet suburbs don't stay quiet for long. Suddenly, the music swells again, and a teenage girl runs screaming from her house. The camera follows her, refusing to cut as she stops near enough for a neighbor to ask what's up. She brushes it off, and then runs back into the house, and the camera moves down its track with her. Moments later, she bursts out again, this time with keys, jumps in a car, and drives off. Only then does it cut to the girl, now on the beach, lit by her headlights. She pulls out a cell phone and calls her dad. She says she loves him.  Then she is dead. Watching all of this, you begin to make assumptions. Thinking back on all of those slasher movies you've seen, you begin to wonder: Was the camera the monster? Was that spectacular opening shot something POV? When you see that long camera zoom in on the protagonist soon afterwards, that's the killer selecting its prey, right? The camera must be a representation of the titular "It." Nope. You see, It Follows's trick runs much deeper than that. This is a teenage drama that tricks you into thinking it's horror. It is horror, of course, but it's not about horror. (Except in a kind of meta sense.) It's about a teenage girl, Jay, who has sex with a boy she really likes and is punished for it. But not some puritanical torture porn punishment: She's instead possessed by a shapeshifting thing that follows her. After "infecting" her, he explains everything to her, hoping she'll understand. The rules are simple: It follows you. Always. And if it touches you, it will kill you. But it doesn't run. It can't float through walls. It has to break windows and knocks on doors. It's a physical entity, albeit invisible to those who haven't been infected. If you're careful, you'll always know it's coming. But it's always coming, until you pass it on to someone else by having sex with them. But if that person dies, then it comes after you again. You're never truly safe. It only occurred to me when discussing the film with our very own Hubert Vigilla, who reviewed the film for some other, less cool publication, that this sequence is the kind of expository monologues that people (myself included) so often rail against. Expository dialogue is terrible, except when it isn't, and what happens here exemplifies the brilliance that underlies It Follows. It's a monologue given in fear, by a young man pacing the perimeter of a dilapidated building. Jay is tied to a wheelchair. She is also afraid. He doesn't want to hurt her, and he doesn't want her to be hurt, but it's selfish. He's telling her this for his benefit, not hers. It makes the moment real. It Follows is made of real moments like these. For the most part, these characters act like people might in a situation like this. Reactions make sense. Sometimes the characters are stupid, but that stupidity comes from an honest, if unfortunate place. And sometimes the characters have to do terrible things. Jay has to doom someone else in order to save herself, and hope that that person dooms someone else, over and over again. And you can see the toll it takes on her and the people around her.  But even if it's real, it's not always realistic. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell created a dreamscape world, and (like a dream) it doesn't always follow the rules. Both It Follows and Mitchell's first film, Myth of the American Sleepover, are "timeless" films, in the sense that trying to place them in time is nearly impossible, but there's a key different. Myth of the American Sleepover felt more like a period piece. It felt like it was a time, but you couldn't tell which. It Follows has no time. The Characters watch 50s sci-fi B movies on CRT televisions and talk on wired telephones. There are no computers, but one character has a clamshell phone(?) that is primarily used as an e-reader. One character looks at (terrifying) copies of Hustler that probably date back to the 70s or 80s. It's consistently inconsistent, and it makes the world fascinating. That isn't to say this alternate world doesn't have its problems. The monster in particular is deceptively complicated. Not because the rules are, but because it doesn't play out as simply as Jay is led to expect. The best example is actually shown directly in the trailer. Jay looks out a car window and sees It (in the form of a naked man) up on a nearby rooftop, staring down at her. It's a cool shot, right? Yeah, but it makes no goddamn sense. First up: it's not walking. It's just standing. And that's weird in and of itself. But try thinking about the logistics of it: This is a creature that must physically break windows and climb in if a door is locked. It can probably climb, but what it does it does in service of reaching its prey. There are no circumstances under which climbing onto the roof of a house (where your target will never be) makes sense. But it's a cool shot. And you have to accept that the rules don't always make sense, and that the world is similar to but not quite the same as the one we live in, to really click with the film. If you get bogged down in moments like that, the things that don't really make sense, you'll be pulled out of the experience. And that's a shame, because the monster kind of doesn't matter. And that's It Follows's true brilliance. This isn't a really film about a thing that is stalking sexually promiscuous teenagers (though it is also that); it's a film about oridinary people being put in extraordinary situations and learning to cope with it. It's about all sort of big concepts like life and death and love and friendship. But the only thing that's ever in your face is the beautiful, brilliant score by Disasterpeace. The film itself is surprisingly subtle, and it's most effective in the moments when two characters just talk to each other. The dialogue, like the characters, feels real. These sound like real conversations a couple of teenagers might be having, regardless of their situation. And that is what makes It Follows special, its ability to blend tense horror with believable drama in a way that few films have even tried, let alone pulled off. And it makes that obscenely difficult task look easy. Bravo, Mr. Mitchell. Bravo. Per Morten Mjolkeraaen: I too, like Hubert, reviewed It Follows for some other, less cool publication. Living in Norway, I was lucky enough to see the movie at last year's Bergen International Film Festival in September. I liked it so much that I actually saw it twice within a week, where I saw a combined thirty-four movies. That, and the fact that Alec saw it twice pre-review, says it all. Seeing as Alec is way more literate than me, I'll keep this short. The opening scene, which he so marvelously puts into words above, sets the mood immediately. The camera's movements is important in It Follows. It's sophisticated and patient, and always beautiful. Whether it's a close-up of Maika Monroe (whom many discovered in 2014s coolest movie, The Guest), or a long panning shot of the suburban neighborhoods. Every picture and frame is handled with care, but it transcends aesthetics, it becomes an extension of the narrative - a way to cement the inescapability of our characters. Accompanying these images, is the score by Disasterpeace. While Alec says it's the only aspect of the movie that's "in our face", I don't think those words cover it. The music blares from the speakers, and without any hesitation, slams into your eardrums to beat away at your senses. It's cathartic in its pure, unadulterated audaciousness.  Monroe is a millennial Janet Leigh. A bold statement, and one many people may disagree with, but nonetheless very true in my opinion. It Follows is an instant modern classic, and Monroe is fascinating to watch from beginning to end.  It's been roughly six months since I saw It Follows, and I can't stop thinking about it. It's a memory I can't escape. Few movies leave such an impression on me, even fewer when you consider the circumstances of which I saw the movie, so again, It Follows is a instant modern classic. 89 -- Exceptional
It Follows Review photo
Slasher subversion
I saw It Follows sort of on a whim. I went to two press screenings that day, because it was mostly a day off for me, and I'd heard good things. I figured, why the heck not? Worst case scenario: I have nightmares forever ...

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First trailer for Spring, starring Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker


Oh, what a lovely holiday
Feb 16
// Jackson Tyler
For almost half of this trailer, Spring holds its cards tight against its chest, that it only needs the slightest tip of its hand to get me interested. This story of a romance between an American backpacker and an Itali...
Crimson Peak Trailer photo
Thems some strong words yur usin' thar
A return to horror for Guillermo Del Toro is probably some of the most exciting stuff going on this year and with this first trailer for Crimson Peak we can see he's back in form with stunningly creepy visuals. If the d...

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First trailer for Regression features Emma Watson and creepy hoods


Say where do you get creepy hoods like that in bulk, anyway?
Feb 13
// John-Charles Holmes
Alejandro Amenábar, director of classic modern horror films such as The Others, is returning to the screen with the first trailer for his new film, Regression.  Set in a 90's era Minnesota, Regression seems to fo...
SXSW Midnighters photo
SXSW Midnighters

SXSW announces films in the Midnighters


Feb 10
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
One of my favorite parts about any big film festival is the collection of atypical films you'll find on the slate. Such is the case with South by Southwest's "Midnighters" section, which features ten "scary, funny, sexy, cont...
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Goetz brothers set to direct Martyr remake


Because everyone wants a worse versions, but in English
Feb 09
// Matthew Razak
Martyrs may still be one of the more disturbing films I've ever seen, and it's even harder to decide if I liked it or not. A US remake of the film has been kicking around since the movie debuted in 2008, but it seemed pr...
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The Guest duo making a slasher called The Woods next


Feb 05
// Matthew Razak
Awesome news for awesome people here: the guys behind The Guest and You're Next, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, are returning with a new film called The Woods. If you haven't seen their previous...
Poltergeist Trailer photo
Poltergeist Trailer

First official trailer for Poltergeist


Feb 05
// Nick Valdez
Did you all know there was a Poltergeist remake in the works? Normally we're on top of these things, but this one seems to have slipped under the radar. The original Poltergeist still scares the heck out of me, so I don't kn...
Horror Releases photo
Horror Releases

Paramount reveals new horror movie release slate


Rings? RINGS
Jan 28
// Nick Valdez
You know how we get like a billion horror sequels? Here are some release dates for a few of them including the Friday the 13th reboot, The Ring reboot, now titled Rings (sure okay), and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimensio...
Dead Rising Trailer photo
Dead Rising Trailer

First teaser trailer for Dead Rising: Watchtower


Jan 23
// Nick Valdez
For a film based off the cheesy Dead Rising videogames going straight to Sony's Crackle streaming service, this doesn't look that bad. Doesn't have enough Frank West covering wars though. Dead Rising: Watchtower is available March 27th. 
Ouija  photo
Ouija

Ouija 2 is happening because money


Ugh
Jan 19
// Nick Valdez
It may not have been a good film, or even entertaining, but Ouija is going to get a sequel on top of its already bare bones story because it made near $85 million dollars from its slim $5 million dollar budget.  In an in...

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 16 // Nick Valdez
30-16: The Lego Movie, The Babadook, 22 Jump Street, The Purge: Anarchy, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Snowpiercer, Frank, Top Five, Gone Girl, Pride, The Drop, Nymphomaniac Vol 1, A Most Violent Year 15. Locke  I nearly missed out on Locke. With the smallest of small releases, I didn't see this until it was recommended by a friend a few weeks ago. I'm super glad I finally took the plunge. It's got the weirdest barrier of entry (it's better if you see it at night, you have to be in the right mindset), but it's totally worth the trouble. In a year full of bloated blockbusters, Locke is the concise breath of fresh air that reminds you what cinema is capable of. In the length of a Sunday night drive, Tom Hardy goes through so many complicated emotions. Enclosed, intimate, and fantastic.  14. Nightcrawler Nightcrawler (and Enemy, in fact) proved Jake Gyllenhaal still has some sides of his acting talent hidden away. With a strikingly dark, yet practical performance, he sells the film's dissection of sensationalist journalism. Literally crawling through the muck, Nightcrawler portrays the opposite end of ambition. When ambition morphs into an unhealthy aggression, one of the best films of 2014 was born.  Read our review of Nightcrawler here. 13. John Wick John Wick was an utter surprise and delight. Literally coming out of nowhere with a generic trailer that made the film seem like nothing more than a direct to home video action film mistakenly released to theaters, John Wick has a fantastic setting (I want another movie of just interactions within the assassin hotel hideout), wonderfully choreographed action (Keanu Reeves is really Neo at this point, which made the fantastical nature of the fights even more believable), and a story with so many cheesy twists and turns I fell in love instantly. Oh and the dog, Daisy! Oh. My. God. 12. Boyhood Filmed over the course of twelve years, it sort of makes sense to put Boyhood here. Both as a little dig, and because while I love what it did for cinema (and how much I enjoyed it directly afterward), I'm not as fond of it as I thought I was. While some of Mason's life speaks to me (I too had a drunk and abusive parent, was also directionless for the majority of life), a lot of it glazed over what my life was really like. Yeah, I know Boyhood won't be a depiction of my life, but it kind of stung to see someone live a happier life than mine. I don't hold it against the film critically (that's why it's here), but I'll never truly connect with it the way I think I'm supposed to.  Read our review of Boyhood here. 11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes APEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what we get for not hailing to the chimp. A summer blockbuster that was not only intelligent, well paced, and full of stunning visuals, but made me expect more out of my popcorn flicks. Bad action and explosions just aren't going to cut it anymore. Dawn says we can have both AND be a successful prequel/sequel at the same time. It doesn't get any better. This is what blockbusters should strive to.  Read our review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here. 10. The Guest The Guest is a film that will forever be welcome in my home. Before my screening, I knew nothing of it other than it was a follow up from the You're Next (which is also a film you need to see someday) duo of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Figuring they were kind of a one trick pony (sorry, guys), I expected a run of the mill thriller with a genre twist at the end. But that's nowhere near the case with Guest. Completely confident in its lead Dan Stevens (with good reason), the film is full throttle from beginning to end. Its tone is never once tiring. With its homages to older horror films, a groovy synth inspired soundtrack, stylistic filming (there's a great use of light throughout) and fantastically staged finale, The Guest was one of my favorite movie going experiences last year. Read our review of The Guest here. 9. Joe Wow, so where has THIS Nicolas Cage been? We make fun of the guy for signing up for everything and anything, but he's some kind of wicked genius. It's when we forget how talented of an actor he can be that he decides to come out with a legitimately gripping performance. That's the heart of Joe. Three great performances (from Cage, Tye Sheridan, and the now passed Gary Poulter) root this tale in the South with the most human characters I saw last year. Remember Your Highness? This is from the same director. I just can't believe that.  Read our review of Joe here. 8. Edge of Tomorrow Just like with Nic Cage, Tom Cruise always has a surprise up his sleeve for when we forget how talented he is. It appears that both actors can truly surprise given the right material. Edge of Tomorrow (or whatever the hell it's named now) is a science fiction story about how some nerdy, cowardly man transforms into action star Tom Cruise after dying a thousand times. In the most unique premise of any science fiction film in recent memory (which is saying quite a bit as you can allude to sources like videogames), a man's life gets a reset button every time he's killed in a battle leading to some of the best and hilarious editing of 2014. And you know what else? Emily Blunt is a killer viking goddess badass and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Read our review of Edge of Tomorrow/All You Need is Kill/Live.Die.Repeat here. 7. Birdman Speaking of actors we've forgotten about, out comes Michael Keaton reminding us how much of a juggernaut he is. Sure he's had some subversive turns in films like The Other Guys, Toy Story 3 and RoboCop recently, but I haven't seen him challenged like this in a long time. Birdman breaks down Keaton and builds him back up again. A heartbreaking, absurd, hilarious, soul crushing, wonderfully shot film, Birdman is truly the peak of artistic creativity. Too bad Keaton overshadowed everyone else. But is that such a bad problem to have?  Read our review of Birdman here. 6. The Grand Budapest Hotel Budapest was my very first Wes Anderson film experience, and I'm so glad I finally took the plunge. Budapest is a film full of so much love, hard work, and time that it could only be put together after as long career. With one of the most outstanding casts (each utilized to the fullest, even in the smaller roles), a vignette style story, and an amazing performance from Ralph Fiennes, Budapest had my attention from beginning to end. The reason it's not higher on this list is because there were a few that had my attention a little bit more. And that's definitely tough in this case.  Read our review of The Grand Budapest Hotel here. 5. The Interview Say what you will about whether or not The Interview "deserved" all of the problems it caused, or whether or not it's some stupid exercise of free speech, underneath all of the drama, The Interview was the funnest experience I had last year. It's not some grand satire of North Korea's politics, nor is it your patriotic duty to witness it unfold, but you'd do yourself a disservice by missing out. Well tuned humor, great performances (with some of the best James Franco faces) led by Randall Park, and an explosive finale you're sure to remember. The Interview is a firework. Boom, boom, boom.  Read our review of The Interview here. 4. Whiplash On the opposite end of the spectrum is Whiplash. A film I had no idea existed full of darkness. Yet, that darkness is truly compelling. J.K. Simmons is a fantastic lead (if you tell me Miles Teller is the lead, I will politely ask you to leave) with a performance that's striking, violent, and full of the best kind of black humor. Imagine if his turn as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man was even more aggressive, and you've got Whiplash. Backing up Simmons is a truly great film that's more about a bloody need to prove you're the best. Intense, rich, and has an a different kind of explosive finale.  Read our review of Whiplash here. 3. Obvious Child  Within a year so full of men that even the cartoons resemble our landscape, Obvious Child stood out from the outset. I've always loved comedienne Jenny Slate as she's great at creating tragically trashy characters,  but I was just waiting for her to break out. And the wait's been worth it. Based off a short film of the same name, Obvious Child tackles not often spoken topics like womanhood, abortion, and late twenties uncertainty with not only tact, but a sophisticated and illuminating point of view with often hilarious results. Jenny Slate is a dynamo as Donna Stern, and the film ending's blend of awkwardness and hope still gives me chills.  2. Palo Alto As James Franco continues to branch out, some of his projects don't go over so well but are nonetheless interesting. His collection of short stories, Palo Alto, and its adaptation got some attention a few months back because Franco himself inadvertently hit on an underage girl on Instagram. That's the only reason I knew about the project, and now I realize how wrong I was. Palo Alto is f**king fantastic for all involved. A well realized weave of stories helped established a broken, and compelling world. I was so invested, I couldn't help but want more. Yet, we're given just the right amount of story thanks to Gia Coppola's outstanding direction.  Featuring an eclectic cast with Franco as a creepy teacher, Emma Roberts as a misguided teen, Jack (and to a lesser extent, Val) Kilmer as a lost kid, and Nat Wolff with the most emotionally charged performance of the year. Seriously, I could not believe that the kid from The Naked Brothers Band had some talent. The final scene of the film where he charges into the night has stuck with me to this day.  1. Fury With how much Obvious Child and Palo Alto stuck with me, only one film did much more. As a fan of David Ayer's career, I was on top of Fury from day one. Though my anticipation sort of wavered in the middle thanks to some bad trailer editing, and I didn't think Logan Lerman was going to be an effective lead, once I sat down with the film all of that faded away. Fury is magnificent. Five terrific performances anchor the film's small story within this admittedly overwrought setting. Fury isn't a typical WWII film, and it delivers with a not so typical emotionally charged finale.  And Shia LaBeouf? Thank you for giving up all of that Transformers trash. This is what you're meant to do.  Read our review of Fury here.  What are your favorite movies from 2014? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you're at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2014, Top 5 Sequels, Top 10 Movie Music Moments, and 2014's Best Dog in Film lists too!
Nick's Top 15 of 2014 photo
I have seen 107 films released in 2014. Here are 15 of the best ones
It was the best of films, it was the blurst of films. Hey everyone I'm Nick Valdez, News Editor here for Flixist and you've probably seen my name on a good chunk of the stuff written here. If not, then I'll tell you a bit abo...

Unfriended photo
Unfriended

Unfriended looks like a made for TV movie, but is coming to theaters anyway


Jan 14
// Nick Valdez
Losing out on a big chance to debut with a neat viral thing, here's the first trailer for Unfriended. A horror film taking place on computer screens, it's about a group of friends on a skype call as they're haunted by t...

Nick's Top 5 Sequels of 2014

Jan 13 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Raid 2: Berandal, Captain America: The Winter Soldier [embed]218787:42123:0[/embed] 5.  X-Men: Days of Future Past The X-Men series was in quite the pickle. As the seventh film in the ailing series, it had quite a bit to prove. Doing something I've never seen before, DoFP went and actively rebooted (as in, made "rebooting" a key plot to the newest film) the series in order to fix all of the issues fans have had with it. Not only pleasing comic book fans, but even casual moviegoers as it brought back all of the headliners and never once felt like the confusing mess it could have been. An interesting, and most importantly, successful experiment that showed off what comic book movies could truly be capable of.  Read our review of X-Men: Days of Future Past here. [embed]218787:42124:0[/embed] 4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 The Hunger Games films have been steadily getting better at handling their themes, and it came to fruition with Part 1. Finally capitalizing on the promise of the series, Part 1 introduced many teenage movie fans to conflicting political ideologies, smaller facets of yellow journalism, and all while having the confidence to talk about things a bit. There hasn't been any room in the series for conversation thus far, and that's weird considering the books are nothing but Katniss talking to herself. This was a sequel that was willing to breathe for a bit and wallow in the messed up situation they're in. It's definitely the first film in which the Capitol seemed like an actual threat.  Read our review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 here. [embed]218787:42125:0[/embed] 3. 22 Jump Street Comedy sequels are a dime or dozen. For every 22 Jump Street we got in 2014, we also got Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2, and A Haunted House 2. While those lesser films tried to recreate the film that got them there, 22 Jump Street did that and made fun of themselves while doing it. Not once did they lie to their audience and say that the sequel was made for something other than money, or that it should exist at all. It was like saying "Hey we're doing this, so let's all just have some fun!" and that's all I could ever want from a sequel, really.  And those title cards during the credits? Perfection.  Read our review of 22 Jump Street here. [embed]218787:42126:0[/embed] 2. The Purge: Anarchy You know what makes a good sequel? Take a film that I wasn't interested in before and completely reinvent the wheel to make it far more entertaining. By changing the direction of the series, from house invader horror to cheesy action thriller, adding Frank Grillo, and throwing a fine layer of hamfisted sociopolitical messages, you've got the best Grillo'd Cheese sandwich. For the first time in a long time, I find myself a lot more interested in annual sequels. Give me one every year this interesting, and I'll never speak ill will toward #CrimeDay again.  Read our review of The Purge: Anarchy here. [embed]218787:42127:0[/embed] 1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes "Apes. Together. Awesome" was the subtitle I used for my Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review, and it's still one of my favorite things I've ever written. Dawn also happens to be my favorite movie of the Summer. It was thrilling, had several nice action bits, and looked amazing. Fixed most of the issues I had with Rise, and brought more Ape on Ape action. I ended up shouting "APEEEEEEEES" for several days after. I do not hate every ape I see, from chimpan-a to chimpanzee.  Hope the next film has Dr. Zaius. Read our review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here.  What are your favorite sequels of 2014? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned through the rest of the week for more "Best Of" lists! 
Nick's Top 5 Sequels photo
Sequelitis schmequelitis
We've seen more sequels released the last few years than we have in a long time. While 2015 seems to continue that trend, last year showed that we shouldn't automatically write off a film just because it's a sequel. I've seen...

It'ssssss showtime! photo
It'ssssss showtime!

Beetlejuice 2 will take place in the now, will bring back Keaton


Any news at this point is good news
Jan 12
// Sean Walsh
Seth Grahame-Smith, the man who brought us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, has confirmed that his script for the Beetlejuice sequel will take place in the present-day, will star Michael Keaton reprising his titular role, and...
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The Voices trailer delivers more than it appears


Talking animal comedies aren't supposed to be dark
Jan 08
// Matthew Razak
In the realm of talking animal movies there's pretty much one genre and that genre is children's comedies. The Voices is not that. Yes, it has talking animals, but it's also a dark comedy with slasher instincts. Plus, it...
Demonic Trailer photo
Demonic Trailer

First trailer for James Wan produced Demonic, a film trapped in hell


Jan 07
// Nick Valdez
  James Wan, director of Furious 7, Insidious, and The Conjuring, also produced this haunted house/demon film Demonic. While it was slated to release December 12th last year (and finished filming as early as 2013), ...

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