A truly scary and "knowing" horror that genre fiends will enjoy for years to come. It Follows is chock full of classic thrills and spills, including one particular scene which, in its moist, dead-eyed glory is as disgusting as it is oddly hypnotising (you’ll know which one). For once, I can’t wait for the inevitable sequel.
THE FOURTH WALL RATING: 8.5/10
Genre: Horror | Director: David R Mitchell | Writer: David R Mitchell | Actors: Maika Monroe, Olivia Luccardi, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary et al| Cinematographer: Mike Gioulakis | Studio: Animal Kingdom, Northern Lights Films, Two Flints & RADiUS-TWC | Producers: Rebecca Green, Laura D. Smith, David Robert Mitchell, David Kaplan, Erik Rommesmo |
One sentence description: Evil Dead meets The Shining.
One (long) sentence review: A flippant teen slasher movie raised to an art level.
Watch it if…You like the spaces between the jumps more than the jumps.
Don’t watch it if…You’re not ready to be seriously scared.
Best thing about the film…it’s got to be that scene in the neighbour’s house.
It Follows - The Story – in a nutshell
Jay is a typical teen living in suburban Detroit and one day decides to have sex with her boyfriend. But this takes a nasty turn as he subsequently ties her to a chair and explains how he has now (sexually) transmitted a curse to her. The curse is a supernatural thing that can inhabit a variety of bodies and is only visible to those who have the curse. Apparently, you should not let it touch you. What follows is her attempt to escape from this curse with the help of her buddies.
The rules of It Follows
1. The curse can only be spread by intercourse.
2. Once you have intercourse with somebody, the curse is probably lifted from you, but you may still see it around.
3. If the person you give it to dies, it moves to you.
4. Only ‘cursed’ people can see the curse.
5. But the curse has temporal form – it’s just invisible. You can grab it or cover it in a sheet.
There was a time when horror movies were unmatched at being leery and vicariously prurient, from The Exorcist with its unfortunately placed cross to Jamie Lee Curtis being chased around the house in her underwear. While we all enjoy horrors about kids (Babadook, Insidious) or film itself (Sinister), horror just feels “at home” when we watch a monster chasing a skimpily dressed girl in a swimming pool. And with that shot and so many others, It Follows feels like something of a ‘homecoming’ for horror.
Director David R. Mitchell and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis manage to add so much panache to the basic teen slasher genre that I would argue that It Follows is one of the best horror films in recent memory. It Follows uses many industry clichés and yet feels unique, perhaps because it brings together an art sensibility with proper scares. Perhaps it’s because it plays with genre conventions, or perhaps it’s the unique brand of evil: silent, slow-walking, dishevelled humans that are nonetheless deeply malign and vicious. All this keeps the tension high and the danger real.
The obvious references here are The Ring and Evil Dead, both of which deal with supernatural and yet corporeal evils. [Fun fact about Evil Dead: the initial of the characters’ forenames spell out the word DEMON - David, Eric, Mia, Olivia & Natalie]. Evil Dead shares the same gory heritage as It Follows, not to mention supernatural forces that can take any form. However, their sensibilities are quite different: Evil Dead is a malicious sandwich of blood, mythology and violence, while It Follows is more enigmatic and full of anxious spaces, slow camera pans, and occasional paroxysms of violence.
It Follows feels like a fresh addition to the genre, because it plays with genre conventions – the evil isn’t some snarling, tentacled monster but ordinary people coming out of a crowd, walking quite deliberately and slowly. This leaves you trying to spot the ‘demon’ in every frame of the film and engaging with the gorgeous photography as you do so.
Then there’s the cardinal rule of teen horror films (www.scream.wikia.com/wiki/The_Rules) - if you have sex, you will probably die. The film messes with this because although you’re best off not having sex at all, if you do, the only way to save yourself is to do it once more, preferably with someone highly promiscuous. In fact, your best chance of survival is to be at the end of a long chain of people, because the curse needs to kill lots of people before it comes back to you.
The film is tremendously atmospheric – it’s entertaining waiting for the ‘evil’ to show up at various places, while the soundtrack often makes you feels like you’re being stabbed by sound. It’s hard to believe that David R Mitchell isn’t some veteran Director of the big screen, with his biggest feature to date being the drama “The Myth of the American Sleepover” where he also teamed up with his editor Julio Perez. It Follows paints a fairly vivid picture of urban decay in late 1970s (?) Detroit and plenty of credit must go to cinematographer Mike Giourakis for shooting a film that mostly takes place outdoors. There’s one particularly grim scene occurring in a neighbour’s house which, in its moist, dead-eyed glory, is as disgusting as it is oddly hypnotising.
The film also dispenses with the horror cliché of the protagonists trying to identify and research the curse, rummaging around in a library with fusty books and microslides. While the mythology of the curse could’ve been interesting, its exclusion leaves the film really taut and focused on the way the curse completely upends the lives of the protagonists. Which reminds me – did anybody else find it heartening just how quickly her teen friends rallied to Jay’s cause and became co-conspirators in her journey? It was interesting watching the whole team engaging in the effort.
A film as sparse as this usually relies on a strong central performance (by horror standards), and Maika Monroe gives it her all, which is particularly impressive given that most of the time, she had no monster or green screen to react to. Mitchell’s direction seems to be to let the teens be teens for most of the runtime, with the girls given top billing. There is an oddly enjoyable performance by Olivia Luccardi (Kelly), who often mumbles sleepily or reads from her dinky little toy. The boys are mostly there to provide the penises.
The film does have its ‘out of logic’ moments – for example after running away from a horrific death scene, Jay just drives to the beach and sleeps ON THE BONNET of her car. The curse barely takes a few hours to find people across the city, so how could she possibly be safe for a whole night? Ultimately, though, It Follows isn’t interested in the details of safety, curses or demons - it just wants to be flippant, scary and beautiful. And that’s more than can be said for most horrors today. AM
SPOILERIFICS (and stray observations)
I have to say this – the scene with Jay’s neighbour being ‘assaulted’ by his mother, or rather, the curse taking on his mother’s form – wow. Are we to believe that mother and son were having carnal relations or that his mother contracted the curse separately and was killed without him knowing? Odd.
We find out near the end that all the manifestations of the curse are all people from around the city who presumably came into contact with the curse, chief amongst them the prostitutes of Detroit. We also see Jay’s dad in the swimming pool scene.
Why do the teens not decide to team up from the beginning, so two people can see the curse?
The monsters aren’t consistent – some have pitch black eyes and others don’t.And finally... just where are the parents?!