Sex has seemingly always been a mainstay of the horror genre, or at least it has been since John Carpenter’s 1978 modern classic, Halloween. In the coming years after Halloween, it was an extremely common trope in horror films that if a character has sex, then the consensus is that they’re going to die. With It Follows, Writer/director David Robert Mitchell intelligently plays with the concept of sex in horror movies in what is not only the best film of any genre to be released in 2015 so far, but one of the best horror movies to be released since the turn of the century thanks to its wholly original script, excellent cinematography, and pulsating synth soundtrack.
It Follows is about a college-aged girl named Jay. It’s the beginning of the fall semester and Jay’s living a normal life, which just recently, includes going on dates with a guy she’s met named Hugh. During their first date, Hugh points out to Jay a girl he sees, but she cannot. This freaks Hugh out, which leads to them leaving and calling it a night. Date number one goes sexless. Come date number two, however, Jay and Hugh are seen having sex in Hugh’s car. This is seemingly innocent pre-marital sex, yes, and a by the numbers scene for a horror movie…but only until Hugh renders Jay unconscious with the use of a chloroform rag.
Jay awakens strapped to a wheelchair in a worn-down parking garage, with Hugh pacing back and forth in the background wielding a flashlight, almost as if he’s looking for something. As Jay pleads for her life and asks Hugh why he is doing this, Hugh begins to explain to Jay that he’s passed something on to her; a curse, if you will.
This curse is an entity that follows at a plodding pace, and won’t stop for anything until it kills you. Hugh goes on to explain that only those with the curse can see the entity (hence why he was so freaked when he pointed out the girl only he could see during the first date), and that the entity can take on any human form it wants. There’s only one thing you can do to “defeat” the curse: by passing it on to someone else. From there on out, all you can do is just hope that it keeps getting passed on, because if whoever currently has the entity pursuing them dies, the entity then goes down the line of people who previously had the curse and kills them, too.
This is a concept that I found immediately interesting and ultimately found very appealing, and though its metaphor to STD’s is pretty obvious, writer/director David Robert Mitchell thankfully doesn’t try to push any moral values on you or outright say “don’t have premarital, unprotected sex.” This movie may seem to be about sex, but in the end, Mitchell just wants to scare you and he’s very successful in this respect.
Some may believe that the star of the show is Jay, or maybe it’s one of her friends, who include her younger sister Kelly and her friends Paul and Yara. Though these characters are played with a ton of heart by fresh, young actors (Maika Monroe puts forth an especially memorable performance as Jay), I found that the true star of It Follows is the “It” of the title; the entity.
Good horror movies feature a villain that is truly scary, and It Follows is no exception. Since the entity can look like anyone and is constantly stalking its prey, Jay (and the audience) has to be alert 24/7, especially due to the fact that no one else can see the entity. This makes for a movie that is incredibly intense at all times, and one that is just as creepy as well.
What makes the entity so creepy is how David Robert Mitchell sets up the scenes. The cinematography in It Follows is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, and makes for one of the best looking horror movies I can honestly think of. Mitchell definitely hearkens back to how John Carpenter shot Halloween, where Michael Myers was constantly found having a presence in the background of many scenes just stalking his victims. The same technique is found in It Follows, and it’s executed maybe even better here than in Halloween. The film was shot using widescreen cameras which gives a better look at the background surrounding its central characters, which often times leads to the entity stumbling through from out of the shadows in very a unsettling fashion to catch Jay.
The comparisons to Halloween really are all over this movie, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The score in It Follows is very reminiscent of the scores that Carpenter would provide himself for his movies in the 70’s and 80’s, with low-quality sounding synths that compliments the eerie mood the movie is going for. It’s a soundtrack that had me turning over to my friend I saw it with probably a half-dozen times during the movie just to praise the music. Not since 2011’s Drive do I think I’ve loved the soundtrack to a movie so much.
It Follows is a minimalist horror flick in an era where horror flicks are anything but minimal. It’s original while feeling very familiar. It leaves behind the jump scares and gore and instead bases its horror on a constant feeling of dread that steadily builds until its satisfying and unsettling finale. While realizing that some will love it and some will hate it, I can still say without question that It Follows is a movie that definitely deserves a watch.
— Michael Lane, Horror Blogger