Review Roundup - They're Creeping Up On You

IT FOLLOWS (2014)

Modern horror a lot of times these days falls into the bland category, with the likes of Insidious and Sinister blurring the line not only in terms of their homogeneous titles but the generic supernatural plot elements and the forgettable cast of family units taking up the screen; a big overall lack of charisma. It seems that when the lingering smell of the Blair Witch Project and its ilk are not involved, found footage tropes and all; the type of haunted house jump scares these projects are littered with is the only other go-to source of inspiration a lot of the time. When remakes are not being done of course. Which is weird considering the plethora of interesting ghost stories and chillers out there. It's understandable that the oldschool slasher movie won't get as many theatre seats filled with an adult rating these days, but still this is a disappointing state of affairs. Luckily there are those who try something new, which is to say they take from their own sources. Much like The Guest the 80s style of John Carpenter makes a comeback with It Follows, with a hint of Wes Craven thrown in there and a few nods to Hideo Nakata's Ring. Which is hardly original but at least they might manage go create something with a personality.

The premise is simple and like all good horror plots they create something memorable - a curse is passed on by teens sleeping with each other, with the next person in the chain taking the attention of a killer entity. As a central idea this is of course pretty blunt in terms of a theme, but tradition dictates that those who fool around will get what's coming to them. Only those who have received this or passed it on can see it, a sinister force which takes the form of a very slow moving person which 'follows' them. It walks towards them in a straight line until they get away or die horribly, that's it. If they are killed the previous victim gets the curse back, so giving it someone new is the goal in many scenes. At first it's pretty silly but slowly they build up a lot of tension with the idea, particularly when you start looking for which background extra might be the thing before the characters see it. Now like a lot of the rules they set up things seem rather flexible, and while it can take the form of someone the protagonists know, on several occasions it chooses an outright creepy shape which is good for the audience but less logical for its own goal.

Of course of this doesn't sound completely enthralling that's because in a number of sequences it's not. Don't get me wrong the sense of creeping dread is put to good use but at times they show it being avoided far too easily or leave it absent for periods of time that seem longer than expected. Running about, taking long drives and decided whose bones to jump next just isn't that engaging. The cast are all fine but nothing too memorable, and that problem of charisma still remains even if they do have a little charm during the obligatory childhood reminiscing scenes. The score tries to rectify this and there's a great electronic theme from Disasterpiece who worked on puzzle adventure game Fez. My problem with that is they made it sound ... well like Fez. Not all of the time but enough to be distracting. Like The Guest which sounded like Hotline Miami in some cases this isn't a general complaint but a personal issue which some might also sympathise with. But it's not something which is ongoing during the running time, and any nod to 70s and 80s type theme music is welcome.

When things do get moving it's generally entertaining even if the finale is a little cartoonish as the gang concoct a plan to finally be rid of the problem, but this is a set piece that could have used some earlier trials to really test out those rules I mentioned as well as pace everything a little better. It's not clear if the mystery ghoul can even be stopped at all in some scenes, but sometimes they affect it and in other moments they don't, and it's motives and methods are a little grey at times. Still overall this is worth a look for anyone searching for a fresh take on old ideas and those who already saw the other much discussed horror movie of the year The Babadook.

3/5

BONUS REVIEW
FOXCATCHER



Steve Carell takes on a serious role in the guise of wealthy eccentric John Du Pont, in a story of sporting challenges and psychological problems. Recruiting Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and later his brother John (Mark Ruffalo), he dreams of building a team of Olympic wrestlers who will live and train on his vast family estate. With his guidance and funding this seems like a dream come true for Mark who is barely getting by after his gold medal success some years before, though John as the older, wiser sibling has a family life he is reluctant to uproot. The problem besides Mark's own troubled state of mind is that Du Pont has a lot of issues of his own, some brought on by his drive to become a team leader and a father figure (without taking the time to build a family) but also the chip on his shoulder as a result of his disapproving mother and reclusive lifestyle.

It's a dense character piece as well as a really unnerving story; things seem as though they are building towards a breakdown early on and the film has a remote, cold atmosphere like the estate location - an all round sinister mood at times. Carell as Du Pont is the main appeal here, a twitchy almost robotic performance that hints at emotion at times but in other moments seems distant and disconnected like someone unable to interact with another human being. It's uncomfortable to watch in several stand out scenes as he plans the future for people that he wants to be close to but seems unable to understand how that might work outside of paying them to gather trophies for a house full of cups and awards. He wants to gain respect and friendship but isn't able to see the parallels in a story he tells about his parents paying a boy to spend time with him as a child. The rest of the cast does a great job with the brothers breaking apart and later understanding the situation and their 'mentor'. Check it out for the drama even if you have no interest in the usual sports underdog type stories.

4/5