Note: So, this is one of those movies that’s really best enjoyed cold. I’m going to spoil some minor things about the plot/themes/etc. here, because it’s almost impossible not to while talking about the movie. So if you’re already pretty convinced you want to see this movie, don’t read on. Just go. It’s really good! If you’re not convinced or you just don’t care about being spoiled, read on.
I really love scary movies. By now you might have noticed that I say that about pretty much every genre of film, which is true. But I really get a kick out of horror films in particular. I think it all ties into my amazement with how films are capable of eliciting such strong emotional reactions from people. In this case, fear. The fact that faked images on a screen can scare the hell out of me is pretty cool. And it’s really fun too.
All that being said, I usually make it a point to see all new horror movies that come out. As such, I’ve been tracking the indie horror film It Follows, written and directed by newcomer David Robert Mitchell, since it hit the film fest circuit last year. The buzz surrounding this film has been overwhelmingly positive, so to say I had high expectations of this one would be an understatement. But I’m happy to say it exceeded them. It Follows is not only one of the best films I’ve seen this year, it’s also one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen.
The film tells the story of Jay (Maika Monroe), a 19 year old girl living with her mom and younger sister while attending a local college. Jay has been seeing a guy named Hugh for a couple weeks which eventually leads to an innocuous sexual encounter. Immediately after, Hugh suddenly knocks Jay out and ties her to a chair. He tells her that some thing has been following him and if it ever catches him, he will die. Now that they’ve had sex, Hugh has passed it on to her. If she so chooses, Jay can sleep with someone else and pass the curse on, but if the person is caught, ‘it’ will come back for her and on down the line. There is no stopping it; it can appear like any person, it doesn’t sleep and it doesn’t slow down.
Besides being an incredibly cool and refreshingly original concept, there’s also a pretty obvious metaphor in play here. The creature represents STDs and past sexual mistakes which, once they occur, can haunt you for the rest of your life. While likely a little bit too on the nose, this is a very interesting theme to explore. But like any good movie, things in It Follows go a little deeper than that.
The main characters of the film are Jay and her friends, all in their late teens/early 20s. They occupy a weird space between being a child and a full fledged adult that every person their age lives in. The innocence and carefree nature of childhood is gone, and the inevitability of adulthood has set in. These are kids who spend much of the run-time playing childhood card games (Old Maid) and watching old movies. They seem resistant to growing up, constantly waxing nostalgically about events in their youth. But just as the creature relentlessly follows Jay, ultimately catching up with her, so too does time inevitably catch up with all of us. Growing older, forcefully abandoning our youth, and marching towards our inevitable death are frightful truths that we all must deal with. What’s great is it seems every part of this movie succeeds in hammering this point home. It works really well.
The fear that the film generates is not your typical horror fair (ie build up some tension and then release it with some kind of lame jump scare). No, in It Follows the fear mirrors the theme. It is slow, constant, and incessant. Mitchell directs the movie expertly to drive this home. The camera, like the creature, moves slowly and purposefully, always showing us enough, but never too much. This mixed with the incredible and bombastic score (which is reminiscent of the original Halloween films) creates an atmosphere where you feel as terrified and stressed out as Jay. The viewer is always studying the screen, anxiously searching for the next person slowly shuffling towards it.
There’s a whole lot more things I’d love to say about this great film, but as mentioned above I’m hesitant to spoil things more than I already have. It Follows is a great, legitimately scary movie with a refreshing premise and some great themes that tie together really well in the end. If you like to be scared, check it out.
It Follows went for a wide release on March 27th, so it should be playing at a theater in your city.