Any horror fan who came of age with Halloween, Friday the 13th, and their many sequels knows the ironclad rule regarding imperiled teens: If they have sex, they're gonna die. So maybe you'll have to be of a certain generation - or have an affinity for a certain breed of shocker - to get the most from It Follows, writer/director David Robert Mitchell's intensely witty, pretty damned scary tale of a young woman diagnosed with a literally murderous, and ambulatory, STD.
After a seemingly fun date, with a seemingly nice guy, that ends in backseat intercourse, our pretty blonde lead Jay (Maika Monroe) finds herself chloroformed and bound to a wheelchair in an abandoned building in downtown Detroit. With a panicked apology, her new beau Hugh (Jake Weary) explains what's happening: Through their lovemaking, he's saddled Jay with a supernatural curse in which she'll be persistently followed, and eventually killed, by malevolent figures that only she can see. (It Follows' prelude shows a similar victim's ghastly end.) Yet there is a "cure." Jay can have sex with someone else and pass the curse on to him - and pray that he quickly passes it on in turn, or the invisible marauders will return their attentions to Jay.
Staring at that paragraph, I realize it might be impossible to make Mitchell's film sound like anything beyond horror-porn sleaze, and It Follows certainly doesn't shy away from its exploitative bent. (Try as I might, I can't quite figure out why so many of the unearthly tormentors need to be naked.) Yet the movie casts a hypnotic, tantalizing spell. Mitchell's Detroit is some unaccountable hybrid of the past and present: Modern teens watch '50s monster movies on antenna-ed black-and-white TVs; a girl reads from Dostoyevsky's The Idiot on her clam-shaped iPhone; parents bring kids to see 1963's Charade at the one-screen movie house complete with live organist. Between its off-kilter mise en scène, its air of moody disquiet, and Mitchell's languid, dream-like rhythms, all of It Follows feels like it's taking place in Mulholland Dr.'s Club Silencio, but with a throbbing, insistent synth score in place of lip-synched Roy Orbison. (Composer Rich Vreeland's "I'm here, damn it!" soundscape, with its heavy debt to John Carpenter, is the rare ultra-aggressive score that's absolutely right for the material.)
And good God but the film is creepy, whether Mitchell is freaking you out with in-your-face terrors - beware the hallway's hulking giant - or startling you with peripheral images of slowly approaching figures whom Jay's friends might or might not see. (In one especially potent beachfront bit, we're convinced a background figure is her pal Yara until a reverse-angle shot shows Yara, instead, contentedly floating on the lake.) There are several storyline inconsistencies and unresolved detours, and those who crave less-subtle scares and more narrative closure will likely hate the experience; I wasn't at all surprised, upon leaving the auditorium, to hear a teen patron say, "That was the worst movie I've ever seen." Yet this well-acted (particularly by Monroe and Keir Gilchrist), sharply written, fascinatingly designed, inventively staged outing is like no other horror movie since Under the Skin - It Follows you home and doesn't go away.
Will Ferrell is tall and white. Kevin Hart is short and black. And therein lie the central, endlessly repeated jokes of director Etan Cohen's Get Hard, in which Ferrell's heading-for-San-Quentin millionaire solicits Hart's car-wash entrepreneur for aid in surviving prison because, ya know, he must've been in prison, right? (But he wasn't! Oh, the irony!) Top-loaded with race-relations, gay-panic, and sexual-assault gags too toothless to qualify as dangerous, let alone offensive, the movie's about as bad as you'd expect, and a little worse when it suddenly remembers it needs a plot and dives headfirst into execrable-'80s-action-comedy territory. But it boasts some good things. Despite their material, Ferrell and Hart make a charming odd couple, the former as goofy as usual, the latter less manic than usual. Each has a few winning solo moments, with Ferrell's increasingly byzantine attempts at profanity and Hart's prison-yard impersonations their finest. And while you certainly wish better for them than this, the supporting cast features Alison Brie, Edwina Findley, Craig T. Nelson, and, best of all, the rapper Tip "T.I." Harris, spectacularly funny and threatening and charismatic as Hart's prison-savvy cousin. If Get Hard itself seems to vanish after T.I. exits, that's because it's hiding in his pocket.
A lonely alien meets a lonely little girl in Home, and amazingly, throughout the 90 minutes of this animated adventure, home was about the last place I wanted to be. Director Tim Johnson's zippy, colorful, incredibly clever outing - one that, I kid you not, is all about the comedic awkwardness of accidentally hitting "reply all" instead of "reply" - is somewhat bland in typical, family-friendly ways. It's also fabulously atypical in many others, from the scale of its slapstick (watch the Eiffel Tower turn upside-down mid-air!) to the race and gender of its central characters (listen to Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez sing and act beautifully!) to the deep emotionalism of its climactic scenes (fail miserably as you attempt not to cry!). All told, Home is a great, smart, silly time with additionally marvelous vocal work by Steve Martin and Breaking Bad's Badger Matt Jones, and Jim Parsons is lovable perfection as our squat, purple hero Oh - as in, "Oh, I really, really like this movie."