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It Follows: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

It Follows (2015) movie poster It Follows

Theatrical Release: March 13, 2015 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe (Jay Height), Keir Gilchrist (Paul), Daniel Zovatto (Greg Hannigan), Jake Weary (Hugh/Jeff Redmond), Olivia Luccardi (Yara), Lili Sepe (Kelly Height), Bailey Sprye (Annie), Debbie Williams (Mrs. Height), Ruby Harris (Mrs. Redmond), Leisa Pulido (Mrs. Hannigan), Ele Bardha (Mr. Height)

Buy It Follows from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

It's hard to find a horror movie with overwhelmingly favorable critical marks, so congratulations for finding It Follows, one of 2015's best-reviewed films in any genre. The second feature written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover),
this offbeat tale is disarming, haunting, and strange.

Like many a horror film, it centers on teenagers, many of whom are good-looking. One of these suburban Detroit undergrads, recreational swimmer Jay (Maika Monroe), sleeps with Hugh (Jake Weary), a guy she is seeing who surprises her with a post-coital chloroform, binding, and warning that as a result of their vehicular intercourse, Jay is to be followed by something that only she will be able to see. The only way to shake this pursuer is to sleep with someone else and pass it on, kind of like a chain letter or a sexually transferable disease, if you will.

Sure enough, Jay alone begins to see different people slowly, silently approaching her. The threat takes different forms, often women with bared breasts. When it gets close enough, it attacks not just Jay, but nearby members of her small social circle including younger sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and childhood friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist).

That's kind of all there is for plot, but it is enough to distinguish It Follows from the many other horror movies being released all the time.

Jay Height (Maika Monroe) notices she's being followed in "It Follows."

Mitchell's sophomore effort is an inspired throwback. It recalls vintage John Carpenter thrills: Halloween in look and feel, The Thing in plot. It's not particularly derivative of those respected flicks or the other late '70s, early '80s horror it evokes. It just strikes similar chords and makes you wonder why the genre rarely displays such innovation, preferring to rely on proven franchises and a few tried and true formulas.

Though influenced by contemporary horror classics, It Follows does its own thing and is much better for it. The film is creepy in a way that conventional supernatural and slasher movies are not. It is relatable and fresh, kind of like the first Paranormal Activity was. Likewise, its effectiveness could easily be spoiled by sequels and obvious knock-offs, neither of which it lends to.

While seemingly set in the present day, It Follows is a nostalgic production. It features old television sets, old programs, old furniture, old fashions, and old clothing. The electronic score by veteran video game composer Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland) has a sound and rhythm all its own, though one that could still remind you of Carpenter's synthesized soundtracks. Mitchell and his cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, similarly inexperienced in features, do beautiful things with their nimble camerawork, which also reminds you of Carpenter's more creative visuals.

The plot, which calls for a minimum of gore and visual effects (really just some make-up), gives you enough to chew on. Is it an obvious allegory for sexual transmitted diseases? Or an attempt to join the long and widely-recognized tradition of sex-discouraging horror movies? Probably both and maybe more. There are unsettling undertones of rape and incest, but there also seems to be logic to the horror it presents, lending to some thoughts on sexual desire and regret in adolescents, a level of discourse-sparking intelligence you don't often find in new horror movies.

Greg (Daniel Zovatto), Jay (Maika Monroe) and Kelly (Lili Sepe) track down the source to ease Jay's troubles.

All these qualities made It Follows a critical darling. Those of us who watch hundreds of movies every year take notice when one departs from the standard playbook, injects a little substance,
and is able to recall long-outmoded aspects of old films that still hold up. Nearly every critic reviewing It Follows gave it an endorsement. That unusual accord created some buzz around this little $2 million flick, which opened well in four theaters and within a month expanded to 1,655. That theater count was by far a record for Radius-TWC, a niche banner of The Weinstein Company whose output has typically floundered theatrically in tandem with concurrent on demand release, even when blessed with clout, star power, and awards recognition. Crushing the previous record-holder Snowpiercer (which occupied 356 venues), It Follows proceeded to gross nearly $15 million domestically, five times the next highest-earning Radius-TWC release (2013 Best Documentary winner 20 Feet from Stardom).

When critics lavish a film with so much praise, the public's expectations are raised and their willingness to voice a contrary opinion grows. This phenomenon commonly manifests at IMDb, where glowingly critiqued films like Snowpiercer and American Hustle cling to barely above average user ratings. In this regard, It Follows lives up to its title, currently sporting an only somewhat respectable 7.0 there. (To put that into context, the critically-loathed Terminator Genisys also presently holds a 7.0.)

Admittedly, It Follows will not be everyone's cup of tea. This is a slow-paced, understated thriller, one not afraid to go a few minutes without dialogue here and there. The same unorthodox instincts that tickle critics could confuse or annoy someone just looking for 100 minutes of entertainment. And even if you muster some appreciation for the film, you might not necessarily leave liking it, particularly after a less than riveting finale.

Four months after beginning its run in theaters, It Follows reaches stores on Tuesday from Weinstein partner Anchor Bay Entertainment in a DVD and the Blu-ray + Digital HD edition reviewed here.

It Follows: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($26.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

It Follows achieves as much technically as it does dramatically, which makes the Blu-ray's top-notch feature presentation most agreeable. The sharp 2.40:1 visuals showcase the film's rich texture and tasteful, eerie cinematography of slow pan tracking shots and retro production design. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio similarly delights, as the creative sound design captivates without drowning out certain elements. Volume levels may be a tad different from what they were theatrically, but they serve the material well, with the viewer easily being able to fall under the movie's spell without having to keep reaching for the remote.

Composer Disasterpeace, also known as Rich Vreeland, discusses the electronic score he created for the film. A small poster art gallery shows off some nifty alternate one-sheets like this throwback.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As on Snowpiercer, Radius-TWC, Weinstein, and Anchor Bay have enlisted Twitter-popular Scott Weinberg to host a critics' audio commentary on the film. After speaking on his own for a while

(in which he is prone to possible mispronunciation and exhibits the effects of recent oral surgery), Weinberg shares the air with a total of five other critics from genre and fanboy websites, each taking their turn and all speaking highly of the movie while sharing interpretations, comparisons, and analysis. It may not have the authority of filmmakers' commentaries, but this approach certainly yields an appealing and memorable alternative.

"A Conversation with Film Composer Disasterpeace" (4:56) briefly interviews Rich Vreeland about the distinctive, atypical music he wrote for It Follows.

Breaking with Weinstein tradition, It Follows has its theatrical trailer (2:13) preserved here.

Finally, a poster art gallery lets you look at five alternate one-sheet designs created for the film but not used for traditional marketing.

The disc opens with trailers for Heaven Knows What and Snowpiercer. Neither can be accessed by menu.

That menu loops a winning scored montage above a creative listings bar adapted from a poster design. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback for the film -- a concept new to Weinstein Blu-rays -- but doesn't let you leap back in otherwise or set bookmarks.

Holding the Digital HD UltraViolet code and directions, the standard blue keepcase is topped by a snazzy embossed slipcover reproducing the same artwork below.

Jay (Maika Monroe) and friends try to lure "It" into a booby-trapped swimming pool in the climax of "It Follows."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A horror movie that unsettles without making you cringe, It Follows is a rarity and one for even those averse to the genre to see. Some may lament the lack of a filmmakers' audio commentary, deleted scenes, and other conventional bonus features, but the handful of extras complement the really strong picture and sound of this commendable Blu-ray + Digital HD release.

Buy It Follows from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Halloween Snowpiercer Blue Ruin Drive The Cabin in the Woods The Ring The Blob (1988) Lost River
Maika Monroe: Labor Day | Jake Weary: Fred: The Movie
New to Blu-ray: Chappie Ex Machina Woman in Gold Virtuosity Vanilla Sky Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

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Reviewed July 13, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Dimension Films, Radius-TWC, Northern Lights Films, Animal Kingdom, Two Flints,
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.