Note this feature contains some spoilers for It Follows
While It Follows has wowed audiences and critics the world over (HFC gave it 4 stars here), one person left underwhelmed was writer/ director, and sometimes motor mouth movie critic, Quentin Tarantino. In a recent interview with Vulture the filmmaker described at as “the best premise in a horror film in a long, long, long time” before saying it was “one of those movies that’s so good you get mad at it for not being great”. However, in a previously edited extract he extended upon this by laying into specific aspects of the film including:
1. It’s methods:
He [writer-director David Robert Mitchell] could have kept his mythology straight. He broke his mythology left, right, and center. We see how the bad guys are: They’re never casual. They’re never just hanging around. They’ve always got that one look, and they always just progressively move toward you. Yet in the movie theater, the guy thinks he sees the woman in the yellow dress, and the girl goes, “What woman?” Then he realizes that it’s the follower. So he doesn’t realize it’s the follower upon just looking at her? She’s just standing in the doorway of the theater, smiling at him, and he doesn’t immediately notice her? You would think that he, of anybody, would know how to spot those things as soon as possible.
To begin with I’m confused by Quentin suggesting It as a They. But that aside, he’s right about this aspect of the film – the forms it takes seem to defy a clear pathology. However, this is not the only time It stops in its tracks (see the bit on the roof) and so we can assume it’s not solely resigned to walking. As for the characters not always spotting It, surely the point is that by creating a creature that can take on any form it wants (normal or abnormal) then it wouldn’t always be easy to recognise. For a film about paranoia this is a fairly essential plot point. In saying that, a valid point he doesn’t make is that It appears to sometimes go out of its way to blend in whilst others it takes on a purposefully horrific appearance. Though this is easily countered by It also seeming to take an element of glee in tactfully picking out forms it knows will get a maximum scare out of its victims (see below).
2. It’s intelligence
The movie keeps on doing things like that, not holding on to the rules that it sets up. Like, okay, you can shoot the bad guys in the head, but that just works for ten seconds? Well, that doesn’t make any fucking sense. What’s up with that? And then, all of a sudden, the things are aggressive and they’re picking up appliances and throwing them at people? Now they’re strategizing? That’s never been part of it before. I don’t buy that the thing is getting clever when they lower him into the pool. They’re not clever.
In terms of why bullets can stop it momentarily, he’s right it doesn’t fully make sense. But then the same can be said about the arbitrarily exceptional stake through the heart in just about any vampire film. The important point is surely that it cannot be stopped. And that thought is arguably more frightening when it can be momentarily stunned, but still carry on. I know I’d rather see that than bullets simply passing through like a ghost. That’s putting aside that the specifics of the monster are kept at a minimum – there is no handbook so the characters understanding of it is never complete. I wouldn’t call this a problem. Though ultimately I suspect the creative team simply asked themselves what would be more effective and went with it. However, the suggestion that It follows without thought really isn’t supported by the film. That It can strategically turn to a person the individual perceiver recognises suggests It definitely as a strong sense of internal logic and can adapt its approach when it wants to kill people or really scare the heck out of them. Hence It taking on the appearance of Greg’s mother before raping and killing him.
3. Jay not having sex with Paul
Also, there’s the gorgeously handsome geeky boy — and everyone’s supposed to be ignoring that he’s gorgeous, because that’s what you do in movies — that kid obviously has no problem having sex with her and putting the thing on his trail. He’s completely down with that idea. So wouldn’t it have been a good idea for her to fuck that guy before she went into the pool, so then at least two people could see the thing? It’s not like she’d have been tricking him into it. It’s what I would’ve done.
I am not on board with this one. For a film largely about teenagers entering into emotional and sexual maturity, Jay’s decision not to have sex with Paul is an important part of the plot. It’s showing strength on her side because she cares about him. As such, she understandably does not want him to have to live with something this frightening too. This is particularly reasonable since her turning down his advances almost immediately follows on from Greg getting brutally killed. She thought that he could handle it but he evidently couldn’t – would she really risk making that mistake again with a much closer friend? As for if Quentin would have done that, fair enough. Though I’d like to think I wouldn’t set up such a Scooby Doo way of trying to stop the monster as the overly dangerous pool plan, these are a bunch of teenagers here dealing with something way stronger than they are.
So there we go. Obviously I got no problem with non-horror makers commenting on the genre (otherwise I wouldn’t write for this site) though I do disagree with what he said. Interestingly, note that in the same interview Tarantino also criticised the 90s horror heavyweight Scream, saying director Wes Craven “was the iron chain attached to its ankle that kept it earthbound and stopped it from going to the moon”. With this in mind, and his well known fandom for grindhouse movies, horror fans may more than ever want to see him make his own contribution to the genre.