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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



It Follows, Review: STD (Sexually Transmitted Death)

It Follows, Review: STD (Sexually Transmitted Death)

Some Detroit teenagers have pre-marital sex, and, in the process, get cursed with visions of stalkers, who appear as young and old, strangers and family members, clothed or naked—but with one definite aim: killing the latest in the chain of promiscuous youngsters. The target can buy time by having sex again, with another person, who will then be killed first, but the thing—IT—will get to you in the end. You can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape a horrific death.

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s first outing, 2010’s Myth of the American Sleepover, was a simple teen drama, following a bunch of Detroit teenagers as they had sleepovers. He has stayed on in Detroit and written teenage parts here too, though this time it is super-natural stuff. This idea originally came from David’s nightmares, when he was a kid, so no wonder he wrote the original script in a week.

How can such a plot avoid getting labelled as puritanical? But the film is best enjoyed as a pure horror exercise. There is no denying that It Follows does not follow the standard horror format for the major part of its screen-time. Two or three false startle scenes apart, the horror is pure, slow and compelling. . Mitchell succeeds in using the music score as a strong element in the fear-fantasy milieu. But there are large parts where the actors head nowhere or do nothing, which last longer than any buffer requirements, as a ploy to lull you before the next jolt. What and when are clearly defined. Where and how vary, as part of the suspense. Who and why are never explained. Do we see a sequel, or, more aptly, a prequel, in the making?

Lead actress Maika Monroe (Jay Height in the film) is 21 years old and makes her living for part of the year as a professional kite-boarder, the sport in which wake-boarders are pulled by the para-gliding kite they’re roped to. As with Mitchell, IT Follows is her second film, the first being another horror venture, Adam Wingard’s The Guest. Some of her favorite movies are The Shining, Halloween, Blue Velvet, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Maika is comfortable with skin exposure, although the Indian censors have clipped some the titillating shots. In a film that requires the players to be either scared or scary, some good portrayals come from Olivia Luccardi (Yara, Jay’s family friend), Lili Sepe (Kelly Height), Jake Weary (Hugh/ Jeff, Jay’s first sex partner), Daniel Zovatto (Greg Hannigan, the second) and Debbie Williams as Mrs. Height.

In It Follows, fate, destiny and inevitability take centre-stage. Mitchell’s use of sex itself as a virus for which STD and HIV AIDS are passé, and super-natural stalking is current, is surely ingenious. That the protagonists can buy time by sleeping around does not strike the right chord, though. Advice and opinion? See it. A warning, though: If there are two of you watching it in the local cinema, it is possible that only one will be able to see the girl in the yellow dress, at the back of the auditorium. This is a horror film, so it follows.

Rating: ***



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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