Nowhere to Go: It Follows and The Ring

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ItFollowsFeatu

Out now on VOD, DVD & Blu-ray is It Follows, David Robert Mitchell’s tremendous horror film. I’m fortunate to be featured on the disc as part of the Critics’ Commentary, and I’ve seen kind words in relation to the track, as well as my chunk and observations on It Follows‘ double feature potential with The Ring. Here, I expand on what makes these films lovely companions… 

In its year of anticipatory buzz and in its weeks of expansion, you’ve likely heard something like this: It Follows is A Nightmare on Elm Street meets The Ring. Fuck, that’s good. That’s canny as hell. In no short order have I, or many who’ve seen the film, expressed real enthusiasm for David Robert Mitchell’s terrific, dread-filled work. It was upon revisiting Gore Verbinski’s own terrific, dread-filled work however, I realized just how apt that little line is.

These two films which stare down death, the certainty of our fate and the uncertainty of when it arrives are beautiful companions. Stuck adulthood is the horror show: It Follows anticipates it, while The Ring regrets it.

It Follows is stunningly visual and cinematically told, both sound and image convey encroaching mortality and the in-betweenness of a mundane suburban existence. Still, its language is just as beautiful – from Jay’s (Maika Monroe) musing on how childhood optimism clashes with the realities of adulthood, to a particularly telling line from Kelly (Lilli Sepe). Prior to It Follows’ much-discussed, futile swimming pool plan, Kelly asks Paul (Kier Gilchrist)—in the driver’s seat—“Know where to go?” Her reading is deadpan though. It sounds like a statement. It sounds like, “Nowhere to go.”

The Ring is also stunningly visual; the saturated, grim atmosphere was singular upon its 2002 release. Its images are striking, from the David Lynch death bell of the tape, to rain-drenched Seattle, to the portrait-like countryside. Funny enough, it’s something said that haunts, however. Before the punishing epilogue in which Samara’s embodiment of ever-approaching death is confirmed, Aidan Keller (David Dorfman) asks his mother what time it is. Following her ordeal excavating Samara’s remains, Rachel says, “It’s either really early or really late.” We’d like to believe the former, a new lease on life being the parents she and ex-flame Noah should’ve been. A few minutes later, as Noah’s TV switches on, we realize it’s the latter.

Naomi-Watts-in-The-Ring-006

In reality, it’s both. We always have the rest of our lives ahead of us. And yet, from the moment we’re born, we approach death. It Follows’ kids look forward and see nothing, The Ring’s adults look back and see the same.

Rachel’s half-hearted offering to her son’s teacher at the start of the film—“He knows I’m there”—is a lie. He knows I’m there isn’t the same as being there. Rachel’s descent into the well then forces her to confront her own continued neglect of a needful child and a fulfilling life, even as their time is running out.

It Follows’ creeping death is perhaps more prevalent, always a physical presence from which the kids run. Often, they run to places of childhood solace—the playground, the family lake house, the pool. The act through which this haunting is transferred however – sex – is too much a channel to adulthood. It’s also a reprieve, a momentary relief that helps It Follows’ ensemble understand running isn’t the answer. Giving up is what brings death ever closer, resigning yourself to an existence.

However many feet “It” is from you, however many days it takes Samara to arrive, they’ll be here eventually. In “It,” Jay sees variations on who she could become. In The Ring’s best scene, an existential nightmare on an urban terrace, Rachel observes building units of families who smoke outside while the TV babysits their offspring. In Samara, Rachel sees a child unloved, misunderstood, neglected and evil. As they and we see it, death is certain, these nightmare visions of ourselves and our children don’t have to be.

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Weekend: Nov. 14, 2019, Nov. 17, 2019

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