David Robert Mitchell follows up his impressive debut coming of age drama, The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010), with the horror hit of the year that’s sure to discourage many a promiscuous teenager from engaging in pre-marital coitus after seeing it – at least until they’ve left the theater anyway – if they didn’t miss the movie due to being obnoxious twits. Regardless of the sexual habits and threshold for fear of pimple faced brats, It Follows is a movie that’s been garnering a lot of rave reviews from fans and critics alike, making it the must see horror of the year so far. It’s the breath of fresh air us fans have been waiting for; the low budget indie feature that conquered the mainstream on its own terms. It puts a fresh spin on old school horror curse lore, throws in a perceivable underlying message about sexually transmitted diseases and is effective in its simplicity to give viewers the Heebie Heebies. It Follows is sure to go down as a cult classic for years to come, and in my opinion, it’s worthy of such an accolade.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is just your average 19 year old girl, whose only cares in the world are school, her friends, boys and weekend social life. One night, while on a date with a guy she’s been seeing, she lets him bask in the fruits of her glorious lady garden of love – making sweet love in the backseat of his automobile. Afterwards, cuddling is not on the cards as he kidnaps her, ties her up and explains how her life is going to change. It turns out he was cursed and the only way to break it is to pass it on through sexual intercourse. The curse is an entity that can take on any form, often portraying loved ones and friends. If the current inheritor dies while cursed, It will move on to the previous victim and so on. Now faced with the burden, Jay must stay one step ahead at the curse of all times until she finds out a way to stop it.
I’ve always found the curse concept to be one of the most effective a horror film can employ, due to the knowing that doom is inescapable unless it’s passed on to another hapless victim or something is done to appease the spook; when executed masterfully, these movies are high on tension, constant in dread and give off the impression that danger could strike at any moment. In Curse of the Demon (1957) and Drag Me To Hell (2009), where comparisons can be drawn with It Follows, the curse would end once it claimed a victim. Here, the curse never ends; if you want to live the rest of your life safe then you better hope that it gets passed down a huge line of fornicators with great survival instincts; or else it returns down the lineage until there is no one left. My idea for breaking it was to have sex with a dead body, but the writer/director dismissed my theory when I mentioned it to him on Twitter.
The characters weren’t particularly likable for me, but I found them to be natural caricatures of teenage life. I liked how they were written authentically and acted in a believable manner, despite some poor decisions in the final third. But hey, teenagers make stupid decisions all the time. Like having sex with guys you barely know and inheriting their supernatural death curse.
John Carpenter’s musical beats seem to be the heart of many a retro thriller of late and It Follows continues the trend with an excellent atmospheric and suspenseful electronic score from Disasterpiece; ominous industrial drones, pounding drums and haunting synth compositions contribute terror with great effect, ensuring no scene isn’t without an appropriate background noise.
Aside from a couple of sloppy moments in the final third, It Follows is a remarkable accomplishment; it’s directed with style, rich in atmosphere and suspense and filled with haunting imagery, as well as strange arthouse sensibilities. The success of It Follows is a victory for indie horror; let’s hope it opens the door for more original low budget movies to get wide releases in future. 8/10
Written & Directed By:
David Robert Mitchell
Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe