It Follows Review
The modern landscape of horror is a bit of an uneven one. For every brilliant The Babadook we get what seems to be five lacklustre Ouijas, Annabelles or The Quiet Ones that pop up. However this means that when we get one of those gems it is an unexpected and delightful treat and here we have one courtesy of director David Robert Mitchell.
Jay (Maika Monroe) goes out with a seemingly nice guy for a date on a cool autumn evening. One thing leads to another and the two have sex in his car. Afterwards Jay is told that she has had something passed to her; a curse. There is now a strange entity coming for her that only she can see. It can only walk, but it can look like anyone, and no matter where she goes it will always be coming for her. Jay enlists the aid of her friends to help her keep a distance from her otherworldly stalker and find a way to save herself for good.
I have always been a fan of simplicity in horror. You don’t need an overly complex idea to scare people, just a good set-up and the audience’s imagination will do the rest. It Follows’ core principle is simplistic in the same way that an urban legend is. Jay is told the rules and from there all we can do is watch as she tries various methods to save herself. The end result is incredibly tense and makes us uneasy as we consider the dozens of people we see and walk past every day. We are constantly kept in a state of waiting for something to happen, to see something out of the corner of the screen, and when that does finally happen it is terrifying. To some this might seem boring or lacking in impressive pay-off, but I would say that it’s more of an effective slow burn. This kind of pace also serves as a nod to the horror films of the 70s and 80s, particularly John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween. The comparisons to Carpenter don’t end there, with a fantastic score by Disasterpeace that is as retro as it is creepy and is the most impressive film score I’ve heard since last year’s Under the Skin. It also isn’t hard to look at certain shots of Mike Gioulakis’ beautiful cinematography and remember the autumn tree-lined streets of Haddonfield, Illinois.
However, despite a very retro feel, the film is very refreshing in its writing and characters. Maika Monroe is sweet as Jay, and you do really feel for her as she is pushed to the very edge by her fears. Her friends are also a lot more well-rounded than the one trope fodder from horror films of the past. They actually act like regular teenagers, albeit ones that never seem to have a parental presence around, and some scenes in the film play almost like something that wouldn’t have been out of place in Mitchell’s previous directing effort, coming of age film The Myth of the American Sleepover. Also, whilst the plot does revolve around sex, it never feels as out and out sex negative as the “sex=death” rule of some early slashers . I also greatly enjoyed how subtle the film could be at times, letting the events speak for themselves rather than hitting us over the head with what’s happening.
It Follows is a tight and immensely creepy film, dripping with atmosphere that sticks to your mind and will stay with you for some time. Good luck walking home afterwards.