It Follows (2014)
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Olivia Luccardi, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto
It Follows is a little miracle in the world of American horror films because normally today’s American horror films are nausea inducing and not because they are horrifying or morbid, or god forbid gory; no, no, no, today’s American horror films are nausea inducing because they are not what they should be, which is horrifying, scary, or dare I say, frightening. Of course, there are rare exceptions when an American horror film is actually scary and good, but what passes today for the modern American horror film is so bland and fluffy, that I hesitate to call it horror. But of course I speak of theatrically released horror films, which by the way are less and less every day. In today’s horror world if you want to find a truly good horror film, like say The Babadook (2014) or V/H/S/2 (2013), you’ll have better luck finding it on video because the really good ones don’t make it to theaters. Sadly, when horror films do make it to theaters they comply with two norms: either they are ‘soft horror’ depending solely on those damnable jump scares or they are religious horror films, aimed at propagating religious fear and amplifying the faith of the masses. The problem with horror films of that ilk is that they tend to be repetitive and dull, and therefore, not scary. The same situations and themes get played out ad nauseam, and it’s not that you couldn’t do something new with these themes, it’s that Hollywood just won’t go there. They don’t want to make a truly scary film. They want to scare you just enough so you’ll go to church, but not enough to truly disturb you. The result is a series of disappointing horror films that aren’t worth our time. Thankfully, daring filmmakers aren’t dead yet and every once in a while a film is made that revives my hopes for the American horror film, a film like It Follows. Not a perfect film, not the end all be all of horror, but at the very least It Follows is a film that lets us know that better horror films can be produced.
It Follows tells the story of a young girl who goes out on a date with this guy who seems like your typical nice guy, the only thing is that he believes someone is following him all the time, always on the edge. One thing leads to another and he ends up seducing her. After having intercourse with the guy, he warns her that she is now cursed and that a supernatural entity will now follow her until it kills her. It is slow, but it is not dumb and she cannot let it touch her. That’s all you need to know.
So that’s the premise, it’s simple, but damn is it effective. The first thing a true horror connoisseur like myself realizes while watching It Follows is that it’s a throwback to horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, the whole vibe of the film is very old school. The wardrobe, the cars, the houses, they all seem to come out of the 70’s and 80’s. Another thing that’s retro is the soundtrack, which is an obvious homage to John Carpenter’s score for Halloween (1978), which is an obvious influence here. The whole thing with the supernatural force following you around is reminiscent of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, you know, those slow moving types that still get to you in the end. It Follows also has a bit of A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise in it because it’s all about teenagers and their preoccupations, the kind that glaze over adults consciousness. It’s the kind of film in which adults are completely oblivious to the life and dangers that teenagers are living. In fact, I only saw one parent appear in the film and for only a couple of seconds; basically, the entirety of the film is centered on teens and their world. Teens are dying and its teens helping each other discover the who and the why of the events that are transpiring, forget the grownups and the police! So it’s a very old school type of film, which is a good thing because the horror films from the 70’s and 80’s are vastly superior than a lot of the horror films being made today.
So is it a slasher or is it a supernatural thriller? Well, it’s true that at times it feels like a Halloween or a Friday the 13th film with the relentless killer after you, but then again, there are no gory deaths save for one, so I can’t really categorize this as a slasher. I’d say it’s more of a supernatural horror film that comments on the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases, which if you’re not careful can follow you around like a curse all your life. I say this because the whole film is centered around people who want to have sex, amplified by the fact that the film main characters are all in the prime of their youths, having their first sexual experiences. For example, in the film, in order to get rid of the curse you have to have sex with someone in order to “pass it on”. The person who has the curse has this whole mental struggle, should they or shouldn’t they have sex with someone just to get rid of the curse? In this sense, It Follows is a bold film thematically speaking; it plays with themes that are hardly touched upon by Hollywood. In fact, the only other film that I can remember that is an allegory for sexually transmitted diseases is David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977), the latter being a real influence on It Follows. Both of these films play with the struggle a person has when they don’t want to pass a sexually transmitted disease to someone, but their sexual libido and basic need for human intimacy is so strong that they end up transmitting the disease anyways. Though in It Follows, the person with “the curse” is seen under a sympathetic light, not like in Cronenberg’s Rabid where society deems these individuals as garbage to be thrown out in a dumpster! Point It Follows has something to say, it’s not here just for the scares.
Allegories and symbolisms aside, the film is quite creepy with some genuinely horrifying moments and visuals. I loved how the film uses very little jump scares. Instead, it attempts and succeeds in building up those scares in a genuine way. That whole idea of an ominous looking thing coming for you, slowly, yet relentlessly is so effective. I loved the suspense created by this concept which isn’t new of course, but it was well played here, the whole film is built upon that concept and they really went with it. It Follows is not a perfect film but it has more good things going for it than bad. For example, while characters might do stupid things at times that make you scream at the screen, it does manage to get you all worked up and that’s a good thing in a horror film. It Follows works so well, I mean this movie even went as far as making daylight scenes scary, not an easy feat for a horror film to achieve, most just go with night scenes to augment their scares, but in It Follows, even scenes that take place on a beach, in the middle of a sunny day can be scary! Kudos to the director David Robert Mitchell for that and also, for shooting such a good looking horror film, some of the compositions are just beautiful to look at. It Follows proves that low budget horror doesn’t have to be crap and that you don’t need gazillions of dollars to make an effective horror film, definitely looking forward to this directors future work.
Rating: 4 out of 5