Hype mixes seamlessly with hyperbole in the world of horror cinema. Critics and fans alike are so hungry for the next truly terrifying horror film, they desperately toss around terms and labels like “greatest film since” as if it is going out of style. Sadly, in the horror genre, it is going out of style due to over-use. For every one brilliant title to be released like The House of the Devil, Insidious and I Saw The Devil, there is an overload of anemic flicks and flat out piss-poor remakes. There’s not enough time in the day to list them all from the last two years, even.
It Follows is one of the honest-to-goodness truly terrifying films of the last decade. That statement that is splashed across movie posters and television screens regarding this film is as fair an assessment as any film has received in recent memory.
The premise is simple – someone can pass along something (“It”) to you through sex. The only way to alleviate yourself from ghastly images and countless sleepless nights is to pass “It” to someone else by, you guessed it, knocking boots with them. It Follows is heavy on sexual metaphors that can be discussed at length for days on end but it is an even heavier film where we want it most- thrills and chills.
The film, an independent project written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, is currently spreading across the nation like wildfire, thanks in no small part to fantastic word-of-mouth via social media and the most simple point of all – it is a fantastically well done film that will creep you the hell out.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is a nineteen year old woman who believes she may be falling in love. A fella by the name of Hugh (Jake Weary) has caught her fancy and the two seem to be head over heels for one another. As is occasionally the case in teenage romances, and always the case in horror films, a spark of youthful lust evolves into a sexual encounter rather quickly. (hey, we’ve only got two hours to work with here!) Following this seemingly innocent sexual rendezvous in the backseat of Hugh’s pretty sweet ride, things take a serious turn for the worse.
It takes Jay a few days to realize the grave predicament she is in but after teaming up with her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), and life-long friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Jay learns more about the curse that seems to be following her every move. Neighborhood crush Greg (Daniel Zovatto) joins in on the fight for survival that includes a quick summary of the curse from now ex-boyfriend Hugh.
As Jay runs for her life, literally, It continues to follow. It doesn’t run and It doesn’t manifest out of thin air. It simply… follows.
The film pays homage to some of the best horror known to man, pulling a cue straight out of The Shining as we are forced to watch a creepy, naked woman slowly stalking towards our lead character and I couldn’t help but reminisce about The Evil Dead during one particularly woods-y shot of a car rumbling down a long driveway.
The acting was superb from the quartet of friends attempting to survive and end this curse. Maika Monroe should be a hot commodity on the casting wire after this breakout performance while Keir Gilchrist really knocked it out of the park in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and does a fantastic job in this project, as well.
Visually, the film is stunning. Camera tricks, such as a merry-go-round effect and uncomfortably slow zoom-ins, are sprinkled throughout. They are done effectively without being overused. The predominantly night-time backdrop is how all horror films should be made. I dare your eyes not to shift anxiously from corner to corner of the movie screen, in search of the next wandering ghoul.
I loved the Napoleon Dynamite feel to it, as far as aesthetics. It’s as if the audience is in a time capsule vacuum, stuck in present day with all of the advancements of the eighties at one’s disposal. It Follows has the same polyester and ponytail feel to it. Combine this with the synthesizers and this was a film just dying to be released on VHS.
I’ve heard many people debate whether the film is a time piece or just a jumbled nod to eras gone by and I lean towards the latter. With the story being based in the lower class of Detroit (neighbors saying “that family is a mess”, lack of parental supervision, dead end job at the local ice cream shop, etc.), I saw the televisions with rabbit ears and mismatched furniture as more a layer of the characters being depicted rather than a hokey attempt at a time piece by the director.
It Follows has the perfect mix of humor (even a fart joke!) to go along with the most tension I’ve endured in a film since The House of the Devil. The slow-burn atmosphere was achieved masterfully and when the jumps or creep factor did show up, they paid off well. Whether it was an old lady shambling through a school corridor or straining to check every corner of the dark movie screen while Jaime ponders her next move in a park at night, the film left little time for a bathroom break during its 107 minute run time.
With an ending that leaves enough open to interpretation, this atmospheric creep-fest is one of a kind. Running neck and neck with The Babadook for Best Horror Film of 2015, It Follows is a film best viewed in a theater followed by a long walk to your car in the dead of night.