Age of Ultron was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sure, it's… MoreAge of Ultron was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sure, it's filled with loads of same old wit and banter we all got used to with the first Avengers film, but Ultron brought an entirely new morbidity in what is possibly the darkest film of the MCU as of yet. Joss Whedon really knew how to leave the franchise with a bang. Age of Ulton has much more heart and humanity than any Marvel film as of yet, and its perfect balance with its breathtaking explosiveness makes for a hugely entertaining spectacle.
Ever since hitting indie theaters earlier this year, "It Follows" has… MoreEver since hitting indie theaters earlier this year, "It Follows" has been receiving an immense amount of critical acclaim, going as far as being deemed "the most terrifying horror film of the past decade." Due to its extensive positive praise and high-grossing status, the film was expanded to a wide release this past weekend for all to enjoy, and it did not disappoint.
"It Follows" has an ominous and simplistic plot, yet it is a difficult film to discuss without sounding ridiculous. It is important to note that the film is deeply metaphorical and requires a great deal of patience, but if given the time and post-viewing analysis it deserves, it will undoubtedly leave a great deal of viewers paranoid and highly unsettled.
After a brutally unsettling opening scene, we meet the protagonist of "It Follows," Jay, as she calmly floats in her backyard pool. Jay is a pretty, calm-mannered teenager with a close-knit group of friends. She's currently dating a mysterious boy named Hugh, and during their date one evening, he panics and forces them to leave the theater they are attending. Jay, however, is so enamored by Hugh, that she looks past his erratic behavior and continues to see him. On their following date, they drive out into the woods and have sex in the backseat of his car, and as Jay lies in the backseat discussing her childhood dreams of being with a cute boy and having a sense of freedom, Hugh attacks her from behind and puts her to sleep with a cloth dosed in chloroform.
Jay awakens tied to a chair, terrified by what Hugh will do to her. He promises her he has no intentions of harming her, but rather tells her she is in danger. He discloses that during intercourse, he "transferred" something to Jay-a supernatural entity that will hunt her down and kill her unless she sexually transmits it to someone else. "This thing... it's going to follow you," he tells her. "Somebody gave it to me, and I've passed it to you. Wherever you are, it's somewhere, walking straight for you. All you can do is pass it along to someone else."
The entity first appears to Jay while she is with Hugh in the form of a naked woman, as he tells her that only those that have been infected are able to see the entity, himself included. "It could look like someone you know, or it can be a stranger in a crowd," he continues. "Whatever helps it get close to you." The entity, essentially, can shapeshift into a person of any age, race, or gender, and will walk towards the infected until reaching them and killing them. If Jay is killed, the entity will attempt to kill Hugh again, and return back down the line of all those who have sexually transmitted it beforehand.
Jay begins to see the entity everywhere after that night, in the form of an elderly woman, a deformed man, and young girl, among other incarnations-always hauntingly walking straight toward her. Her only choice is to run from it, though it is impossible to ever escape it. Her friends seemingly play along at first, taking shelter in distant cabins and beaches, doubting Jay's sanity as she begs them for help. They soon discover that the entity is altogether real during a supernatural experience where they see an invisible force grab Jay from behind and fling one of their friends backwards, leaving a demonic, hand-shaped bruise on his torso. The group then agrees to do whatever it takes to keep Jay safe, and soon construct a plan to kill the entity before it takes her life.
Simply put, "It Follows" it easily the most effective and spine-chilling abstinence film ever made. Its metaphorical stance on safe sex and the spread of STIs are palpable and visceral, and yet, the film is so much more than that. It has the look and feel of a teen horror film from the 80s, with a sinister and atmospheric mood along the lines of the work of John Carpenter and Wes Craven. The film also has a gorgeously dreamy and nightmarish soundtrack echoing 80s horror synth-scores, adding to the film's suspense and intensity as it progresses.
Essentially, "It Follows" is as much a horrific experience as it is a subtle one. Although it builds suspense expertly, it is not a film with any large payoff, climax, or conventional jump-scares. Nothing in the film is overdone and it does not provide a sense of closure. For this reason, "It Follows" is a film that will appeal more to audiences looking for something outside the typical horror norm, where everything is allegorical and nothing is spoon-fed. That said, "It Follows" may not be the most terrifying experience you will have in a theater all year, but rather one that begs to be deciphered and judged as a whole. One thing, however, is for certain-many will be looking over their shoulders and practicing safe sex for quite a while after viewing.
This year has been incredibly lax for great horror films, and… MoreThis year has been incredibly lax for great horror films, and disappointingly so. Not only has there been a limited number of releases for the genre, but the quality of many of this year's releases have been tedious and less than mediocre-with perhaps the only exception being David Robert Mitchell's "It Follows." And yes, I'm very excited for the upcoming Sinister 2 and Insidious: Chapter 3. But as far as modern horror with original style and creativity goes, Unfriended broke an interesting mold in the genre, and will likely influence horror to come.
Taking place entirely in real time on the protagonist's MacBook computer screen, Unfriended treads new water for found-footage cinema by depicting the genuine feeling of being on your laptop, or really, the feel that you're watching someone browse through Facebook, iMessage, Skype, YouTube, Spotify-you name it. I think she has Jezebel on her bookmarks bar. The movie has believable progression due to its relevance on our age in technology and the cliché terms we all hear or say to one another. There have been few other films that have previously utilized this "computer screen found footage" approach-The Den, V/H/S-though none have done it as expertly paced and intricately stylish as Unfriended. This film is undoubtedly a timely horror film for the social media generation, making generous odes to the sites and apps mentioned above, in addition to Snapchat, Instagram, and ChatRoulette. While this makes for an entertaining experience, the film holds the distinct mark of today's relevant technology, dissenting it from ever being considered timeless. It will definitely be regarded a cult classic for our generation, much like Paranormal Activity was eight years ago. It also holds a similarity to The Ring. Ultimately, Unfriended is a relatable and shockingly dark experience, which is what allows it to get under the skin of the social-media-obsessed, myself included.
Unfriended opens with a cluttered Macbook desktop screen-a setting that will remain for the film's entirety. Our protagonist, Blaire Lily, is watching the suicide video of Laura Barnes, a girl who shot herself in public due to online bullying. This was recorded exactly one year prior to the events portrayed in the film. Before committing suicide, photos and videos of a highly inebriated Laura Barnes were posted online for all to see, including one where she is passed out in a dark alley and the video focuses on her having soiled herself. Blaire closes the screen and we first see her as she's Skyping with her boyfriend, teasing video sexting before their entire group of friends join the chat as they are undressing. The friends laugh, of course, and all get along with their own individual spark, yet each are a play on the clichéd nature of high-schoolers.
Blaire and her boyfriend, Mitch, keep in contact through iMessage on their computers as they begin to recieve sinister messages from Laura Barnes' Facebook page. Blaire attempts to report the page because she believes a person has hacked it, and when she is unable to, she "unfriends" Laura Barnes-and the film goes psychotic from there. Laura Barnes' account hacks onto all of the friends' computers and forces them to play a macabre game that grows more and more savage. The film uses glitches and other computer effects to create a unique and boggling experience, and its relentlessness becomes explosive during its second half. It is an expertly paced and wholly unparalleled experience. Yes, it has cliché moments, as expected from horror, but this could also be interpreted as the film's self-awareness as a play on clichés. Honestly, this all chalks up to: GO SEE IT. IT'S CREEPY AND FUN.