It Follows: MovieMan Jackson

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“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”

It isn’t all fun and games after going to Pound Town. Nineteen year-old Jay (Maika Monore),is having a good time going steady with Hugh (Jake Weary), a 21-year old she likes a lot. They click, and of course, intercourse happens. Immediately after, Jay is incapacitated, and tied down to a wheelchair. Hugh isn’t boyfriend material anymore, to say the least.

What he does say to Jay, however, is that she is now afflicted with a curse. This curse is malevolent, and It Follows her relentlessly in many shapes and forms, some familiar to Jay. Worse yet, it is only seen by Jay, making her sister Keli (Lili Sepe), and friend/crush Paul (Keir Gilchrist), wonder if she’s lost her sanity. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it on. But to whom? And even if she does, is it a guarantee that “IT” will stop stalking her?

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What makes scares? The answer is a combination of things, like anything really. But, it is hard not to have solid scares with an absent atmosphere.  It is in atmosphere where It Follows makes its name. A homage of sorts it is to noteworthy 80’s films in the genre like Halloween, the first Friday the 13th, etc., in the way it goes about its business, but it also manages to blaze its own path with its original story and willingness to break away from the norm.

Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows is methodically relentless. It, just like the mysterious villainous entity featured, just keeps coming, but at its own pace. If the movie were a football drive, it would go 16 plays for 80 yards and end with a touchdown with short, but efficient, offensive plays. Would you rather see what is coming at you, or have it appear out of nowhere? Crazy as it sounds, in this case, I’d rather not see what was coming after me.

Who knew that making love in horror movies could be fresh as it pertains to the plot, and not an excuse to show some breasts and get people killed? Mitchell manages to pull this off, making an intriguing screenplay rooted around the idea of sex and its dangers. It is a very open-to-interpretation movie, but with that said, there may be a few too many things left up to the viewer’s mind. Now, yours truly isn’t saying that line upon line of exposition dialogue is needed. But, I do think that if there was more of an effort to actually explain some of why “it” does what it does, if/how past people are dealing with it, etc., the end events (where the $2 million budget starts to show) probably wouldn’t have come off as so WTF?, simply because I don’t feel that the movie is all that surreal. But again, open to interpretation.

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Getting back to the more positive aspects, though, the movie absolutely nails its atmosphere. The suburbs of Detroit are sleepy, quiet, and a sandbox for chills in every corner, and it helps that you can’t really nail down what time period this is taking place in, as there’s evidence for present day and the past. There is no safe zone that exists, and Mitchell uses some nice camera shots to add to the tension. Again, it hardly ever feels cheap, as most of the scares aren’t false. But, they are amplified by a synthesized score that is reminiscent of some of the great horror themes, like The Exorcist, Phantasm, and of course, Halloween.

Horror movie characters, especially teens/young adults, can often be so grating. That’s why it is refreshing to see those in It Follows just average young adults. However, the story could have been the same with a cast of three instead of five; two of the characters don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Aside from Jay, Paul, and a character who is introduced about midway through, the other roles might as well been filled with dead air. The cast as a whole is solid. No one truly stands out, but the script doesn’t seem to ask them for amazing performances, just functional ones.

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Unique yet still a throwback, and perhaps a little too vague for its own good, It Follows is nonetheless an interesting and pretty creepy horror film that horror fans and film analysts may not unabashedly love, but will find some very compelling aspects in. High schools, you’ve found your next piece of abstinence educational content.

Grade: B-

Photo credits go to filmcomment.com, io9.com, recentmovieposters.com, and aceshowbiz.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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Fifty Shades of Grey: Movie Man Jackson

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“You’re here because I’m incapable of leaving you alone.”

Fifty shades of one man’s psyche may exist, but they all revolve around one desire in Fifty Shades of Grey: Submission. Soon-to-be a graduate of Washington State University, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is thrust into conducting an interview one day when her roommate Kate is unable to do so. This isn’t just an interview with some mom & pop shop owner. This interview is with 27 year-old Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a powerful billionaire magnate residing in Seattle.

In 10 short minutes, Ana realizes that there is much more to this man than a handsome face. Despite her uneasy feelings, she is clearly attracted to his cool & controlled personality, and as fate would have it, Christian is drawn to her innocent and gentle persona. Naturally, the two spend more time together, which is almost always prefaced by Grey stating that romance isn’t something he’s interested in. He is a f**ker, not a lover. While Ana wants something more traditional, Christian’s tastes are more singular, darker, and fueled by a need to never lose dominance.

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Akin to its lead male character’s upbringing, Fifty Shades of Gray has come from humble beginnings to get to the silver screen. The origins are simply the result of a fan known under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon” writing stories and creating a fan fiction that spawned off of the insanely popular Twilight series. Of course, Snowqueen Icedragon is none other than author E.L. James, and the rudimentary fan fiction eventually became a full-blown trilogy capturing much of the world’s attention starting in 2011. And this attention was captured whether people read the novels or not due to the BDSM content, so naturally a movie had to be made, controversy be dammed. But does the movie adaptation assert its dominance?

Yours truly has never read the books, and have little interest to do so. Like most adaptations from print to movie, I am sure that there are a few things left out. But the critical consensus of the 50 Shades series seems to be that the adult, risque content serves as a concealer, or even protection (if you will) for a lack of a truly interesting and well-written story. To be fair with the film, the early portions are fairly interesting, and overall there is some nice looking cinematography especially in the way of lighting to encompass the mood. The early moments carry enough momentum to care enough as to where things go, even if it is abundantly clear to readers and non-readers as to where the ride ends.

As this continues though, there is little drama to remain semi-hooked, and the sex scenes do little to nothing to reinvigorate interest. In a way, it feels like Taylor-Johnson and the producers expected the BDSM moments to carry all of the intrigue, but after the first, what is really there aside from whips and chains and penetration? The drama is supposed to come from whether Ana will or won’t sign the consent contract, and this is basically the rest of the movie. It is actually rendered pretty useless in honesty however, because it isn’t like the two stop all contact or sexual explorations, in fact they continue on with progressively more intensity and sado-masochistic elements. At one point, Christian even makes a point about the contract being redundant. If this was a self-referential jab at itself, nice. Didn’t come off that way though.

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There’s a feeling when watching this that the producers and director want to have their cake and eat it too. The highly mature and dark nature of the content gives the tone one expects, but just as quickly, the movie appears to try hard to be this not-exactly-bubbly but undeniably romantic flick. Even the score, which is solid in some scenes but incongruent with others, reflects this. Again, maybe it comes together more seamlessly in the novel, but it is odd to see something that resembles a teen romance in places.

Two people matter in this and everyone knows who they are. Dakota Johnson’s work here is probably the best aspect of Fifty Shades. It is easy to think that what she is asked to do isn’t a ton, but having to be so open and willing to bare oneself to a national audience requires a lot of confidence. But her nudity isn’t all her role comprises. Her performance feels very natural as it pertains to her character, curious yet fearful, “strong-ish” but weak. There is no debate to be had that she isn’t fully invested in the role.

The same can’t really be said for Jamie Dornan. Playing an American, his natural Irish accents drifts in more than it should, to the point that less attention is focused upon what he is saying and more upon how he is saying it. On the aspect of chemistry between the pair, it is mediocre at best and nonexistent at worst, but yours truly feels like the problem lies more with Dornan. I can’t shake the belief that he could have done more, gone a little further. To talk about anyone else here is wasting space, not because they are terrible, but because they really don’t matter.

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To bring up the question again, does Fifty Shades of Grey assert its dominance as a compelling and sexy film? Not at all, but it isn’t a completely painful viewing. Just exercise caution if submitting to the 125 minute runtime.

Grade: D+

Photo credits go to Variety.com, beautyworldnews.com, and etonline.com

Follow the MovieMan @MovieManJackson.