Last year’s The Babadook set a new bar for horror movies this decade and yet couple of months later, that mark has been reached again by ‘It Follows’. Apparently inspired by a childhood nightmare of director David Robert Mitchell’s, the story is about Jay Height (Monroe) who goes on a first date with Hugh (Jake Weary) and after having sex in his car, Jay wakes up underdressed and tied up in a wheelchair. Hugh claims that a curse is now upon her with a type of entity that will follow Jay until she passes it on to somebody else. Jay now must try to survive while many of her close friends are at her side.
Newcomer David Robert Mitchell wrote and directed the film, and has essentially taken a basic concept and fleshed it out into a feature length exercise in disquietude. The main reason the film works so well is because it operates on the universal fear that humans have of being followed— on the street, in our classrooms, in the grocery store, even in our own home. The fear of being followed and not knowing why or who is after you is terrifying on every conceivable level, and Mitchell’s playful striking of this very nerve is what this film is all about. This incessant terror creeps in through a series of unsettling confrontations with the nebulous “it”, which manifests as different people. Sometimes it’s strangers, sometimes people the afflicted victim knows; in either case it is inescapable, and the film closes in on the world of its characters to claustrophobic effect.
Skilled performances are the biggest surprise here and makes it all the more believable in all the unbelievability; Maika Monroe and Keir Gilchrist lead the cast, both turning in admirable and realistic performances, and the supporting cast members are equally believable. It’s a rare instance in which I felt like the filmic representation of young adult boredom was on-par. These characters and their relationships toward one another look and feel very real.
The cinematograhy here is another large part of the ambiance in the film, with the camera capturing expansive views of a Detroit, and the sleepy lives of young adults living on the suburban outskirts of it. The ambiguity of the time period is hand-in-hand with the general ambiguity of the film itself; the camera-work is sophisticated and even at times lyrical, presenting beautiful compositions and chilling run-ins with the various manifestations of “it”, whether it be lurking in corners or slowly approaching the camera from distant landscapes. The scope is undoubtedly reminiscent of John Carpenter, which has been mentioned time and again.
One of the best aspects of this cinematic experience is the soundtrack by Disasterpiece; the artist known for his work on indie platform game “Fez”. The soundtrack to this excellent horror builds tension throughout rarely releasing the listener. The music in collaboration with the creative cinematography makes this film as engrossing as possible. Disasterpiece’s dark synth soundtrack is a masterpiece.
I can’t say enough good things about the overall execution, which demonstrates that a horror movie can be more than cheap jump scares and senseless gore thrown left and right. I’m definitely going for a second viewing and study the whole movie better (possible analysis..), because I still feel I missed out on some things. That’s the small problem I have with this movie, it doesn’t give you much to pick up on and sometimes things that happen don’t have the same logic that what it creates from the beginning, like “it” supposed to walk towards you all the time and suddenly you see the guy on the roof just standing there… bit strange. That’s because most of those scenes were just simply homages to other movies and it detracts a bit from the premise of the story.
I found “It Follows” to be immensely frightening and I can’t wait to watch it again. While some have decried the film’s showdown finale and conclusion, I didn’t think there was really any better way to end a film like this. In a film whose core is so indefinite, all bets are off as far as I’m concerned, and maybe that’s part of what makes the film so quietly scary— the threat lacks definition. The only conclusive attribute “it” has is that it follows you, and through a skillful amalgamation of atmospheric camera-work, evocative mood-setting, and strong performances, that is more than enough. The movie is not scary, its the meaning of “it” that is so unsettling.
It Follows gets an 8.8/10.