Oh hey Darlin’. How have you been? Oh you’re just calling to get some movie advice? Well, of course! Oh you’re going on a date this weekend? That’s cool. With some guy named Billy? Well, why doesn’t he pick the movie? Oh you say he isn’t the least bit opinionated about movies? You realize that’s a big red flag right? Oh he wants to go to a secluded place after the movie? And you go on to say that you think something
might happen afterwards? No, no – you shouldn’t at all be worried that statistically the number one leading cause of death for women is men. No, you’re right. I’m sure he only has the noblest of intentions.
You say you need a movie that’s going to set the mood? Hmm…well let me think, there are a couple of ‘big’ movies coming out this weekend. There’s that B-level animated film Home with Rhianna. No, I agree, that looks like the biggest waste of everyone’s time. Get Hard? Well, I mean if you want your date to be filled with raunchy comedy, a side of racism and plenty of dicks in your face then be my guest. Yeah, no I figured not. You want me to just pick something for you since I know best? Sure, you should see the latest horror film It Follows. Yep, that’ll definitely cure all that sexual tension right up. Ok talk to you soon. XOXOXO
Spoiler alert: In your typical horror film, the audience knows that a situation like this spells doom for either our unnamed female character or for the film-inept Billy. While Billy undoubtedly has less than noble intentions, the more likely scenario is that the poor soul is caught with his trousers down and is murdered in a slightly ironic and comedic way by an axe-wielding maniac. This would be your typical introduction to a conflict in a Slasher-style horror film.
It Follows is not your typical Slasher-style horror film.
Instead the story focuses around the young Jay (Maika Monroe), who, after having sex with a Joshua Jackson lookalike – Jake Weary, finds herself chloroformed, tied to a chair, and told the most fantastic of tales by her would-be Romeo. Hugh explains that he essentially used Jay for sex so that he could pass on one hell of an STD – that is – a killer entity that will now follow Jay incessantly unless she in turn has sex with someone else and subsequently passes on the bad news bears baton.
So essentially whoever has this curse – if you will – has this invisible shape-shifting monster always walking towards them so that it can presumably carry out a death-by-fucking sentence. Or just simply fucking murdering you (sorry Futurama fans, this is one Amazon woman definitely not in the mood). It can take on a familiar form such as a friend or family member, or it could look like just another random stranger in a crowd. Either way, it’s coming right for yah! The afflicted is the only one that is able to see it, and should it succeed in its summarily fatal snu-snu, it will then set its sights on the person that initially gave you the curse once again.
Admittedly, this sounds a bit silly at first glance, but it makes for one helluva movie. Sure those seasoned horror fans out there are screaming ‘Why doesn’t she just sleep with a pilot’ or ‘why doesn’t she just do ___’. Well yeah, while it’s true that the monster is always walking towards its victim, there no doubt is some other mechanic at work that allows ‘it’ to spawn within a certain proximity. How the hell should I know? You’re missing the point of the movie. Oh, and stop flushing out plot-holes in Interstellar. It’s a good movie, and you’re just going to have to deal with it. Movies aren’t perfect you know.
The induced fear in this film is the result of simply not knowing everything. Dread is found in the eventuality of conflict rather than omniscient Slasher style you’d get in the Freddy or Jason movies. What are the monsters motivations? How did it come to be? How do you stop it? These things are all irrelevant because they don’t make one goddamn bit of difference to the here and now of the story. It’s gonna getcha and you need to walk at a brisk pace to avoid a raging bipedal STD.
Jay, and in turn the audience, know that the only surefire path to self-preservation is to simply pass the curse along. So this is obviously a strategy that challenges the morality of both our young heroine and the viewers at home. She is supported by her younger sister Lili, some friend reminscient of Velma from Scooby Doo named Yara, another male friend that is Jay’s secret admirer/childhood friend called Paul, and of course the cool-kid neighbor Greg. So automatically you know that Jay is more-than-likely going to sleep with Greg or Paul, but even then this would only be a temporary fix for the group.
Talk about a fatalistic solution when you have to become a sexual predator to survive. Director Mitchell is obviously drawing attention to the sexual anxiety of youth, and there’s a recurring theme of pitting the protagonists against promiscuity. After all, if Jay passes along the entity to another person only to have them die, she’s still up shit creek. There’s obviously the metaphor that has the entity representing AIDs or other sexually transmitted diseases, but I believe David Robert Mitchell intended a much more poetic meaning that embodies the lost innocence of youth and hollow feeling of giving yourself to someone that is only looking for that immediate ecstasy.
The timid, often love-sick puppy dog that is Paul naturally wants to help his lifelong crush Jay by taking the burden for her, but there’s a certain ambiguity to what his motivations truly are. Sure, they’re close friends and he no doubt wants to save Jay from getting fucking murdered, but there’s also the angle that he’s looking for some soulless self-gratification. I guess I probably should have said this upfront, but you remember all that gore that’s absent from the movie? Yeah that’s replaced by art-house metaphors and symbolism. It’s still good, I promise, but you should be aware of the fact so as to not be that ignorant movie patron that has faulty expectations and runs off to post a 1-star review on IMDB.
“That was a stupid movie! It was so stupid! There was no gore and it wasn’t scary at all! Worst movie ever!” – Nameless female theater patron #3
No madam, you’re fucking stupid and I fear for the generations of ignorant cinema simpletons to come. Please don’t procreate.
It Follows understands that you don’t always need senseless gore to craft an engaging and terrifying story. We see a flare for a lot of horror classics in this film, only with a more modern sensibility in their presentation. The most obvious homages are to Carpenter’s Halloween and The Thing, but there is also plenty of Wes Craven thrown in there as well – specifically in the suburban suicide reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street. There’s a lot of The House of the Devil , the slow pacing of something like Let the Right One In, and even a little bit of Jaws in the very opening scene. I also couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarities of a movie like Drive and its visual distinctness. There is a beautiful contrast in seeing the decaying ruins of urban Detroit compared with the slaughter-filled suburbia (both filled with their fair share of coming of age metaphors too).
I would go so far as to call It Follows visually astounding, despite it being extremely naturalistic like the before mentioned classics. It relies on a lot of soft lighting and a mix of wide-field shots and almost claustrophobic centerpieces around characters that limit the camera’s vision. Early on in the movie there is such a scene where Jay runs away to a swing set and we initially are presented with a larger field of view establishing the openness of the park. This is followed by narrower and narrower cuts to the shadowy figures of the surrounding trees at night, and eventually the camera hones in on and is directly level with Jay’s face so as to limit our perspective. There’s subsequently an established feeling of dread, as we can no longer see the presumably open section of park behind her. Guess who may or may not be creepin’ up behind? It’s the Syphilis Slasher!
I appreciate little things like this that really compliment the our masters of horror Carpenter, Craven, and Ti West. Mitchell does a lot of cool camera work that really jazz up the genre to the modern age, but it’s evident the classics foundations are never far from his mind. It’s tense, minimalistic, and otherwise surreal in its slow drip of dread. I loved his use of the spiraling 360 degree tracking shots that emphasize the presence (and absence) of the entity on screen and additionally he likes to play with the gimmick that only the afflicted can see the entity.
Rarely do I highlight the musical score of a film, but behind the fun and dread-inducing camerawork, the soundtrack is the component that makes It Follows all the more terrifying. It’s basically an 80’s Synth love letter to its classic brethren, though specifically it’s in tribute to Nightmare on Elm Street. Christ, I’m getting anxious just listening to it in the privacy of my own bedroom. Well done Disasterpeace. I don’t generally have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but your main theme gets me every time.Now where did I put my .45?
Let’s also talk cast for a second. Maika Monroe easily has set herself up with a career launching performance much like Jamie Lee Curtis in the original Halloween. She’s fragile, there’s some repressed sexuality, and the poor girl can’t shoot a gun to save her life. You won’t really find an invested adult anywhere in this film, so it’s definitely keeping in the spirit of the rest of the teen Slasher films. Unfortunately the rest of the gang including that Velma character don’t really offer anything of value. It’s also a bit pretentious that Yara keeps reading Dostoevsky aloud throughout the film, but don’t worry, there’s a satisfying and unintentionally funny scene that repays you for your irritation. It’s all groovy man.
And there you have it. It Follows probably won’t go down so well for the Millennials who flock to the theaters with each passing Paranormal Activity film, but you know what? Fuck ‘em! This movie is a clever spark in an otherwise stagnant genre and one that has already established itself as an audience favorite among the film festival circuit. Light on gore, high on anxiety and ambiguity – It Follows is sure to go down as a modern classic and one that is an absolute must to see in theaters.
The Bottom Line:
I cannot say enough good things about this movie. It’s smart, deliberate, and easily one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last decade or so. It Follows is a sophisticated homage to such classics as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing, and one you definitely will not want to miss. I love the retro feel that permeates a lot of the shots and the cinematography is more than complemented by the 80’s Synth soundtrack. Maika Monroe has a promising future much like Jamie Lee Curtis after her breakout performance in Halloween, and despite its lack of gore and ‘jump scares’, the movie more than makes up in its art-house poetry where‘sexuality’ is the monster inside us all. Enjoy! Oh! And don’t forget to use protection. Those murderous entity proof condoms have to be obtained through the pharmacy FYI.