Horror films have always seemed to want to do nasty things to those folks who like to do the nasty. The teen couple who have sex in the woods are the first to get butchered, and if you do get yourself far enough to find a baby in your belly, it’s likely to be the antichrist. Since this trope is so ubiquitous, it’s shocking that it’s taken until It Follows for a horror film to truly delve into it. Sure, it dosen’t have a ghost in it, so it can’t be released wide in this climate, but quite honestly this film dosen’t seem to really care, yearning to bring back the style and tone of a vintage John Carpenter , or Tobe Hooper classic with a modern twist.
We kick things off with Jay (Maika Monroe) about to go on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary), a fairly mysterious man who she’s just met. All seems fine and dandy between them, but Jay notices some strange behavior when Hugh seems to see people that she dosen’t. Unsure what to make of it, she goes ahead and has sex with him anyway, sealing her doom. You see, Hugh is infected with something of an STD (Sexually Transmitted Demon, if you will) that can take the form of any person, and will follow him and now Jay wherever they go. The only solution is to pass it along to somebody else, and even that will prove ineffective if the monster ends up catching and killing them.
It Follows seeps into its audience’s sense of paranoia, and slowly spreads until it consumes the mind completely. From the moment Jay is infected, there is always someone lurking towards her, slowly but surely, ready to destroy her. It’s not a matter of these creatures making scary faces, or jumping out at random points, but the fact that they’re simply always there. Director David Robert Mitchell clearly has a great liking for a more classical, slow burn horror, and every single one of his scare set ups are all the more effective because of it. He unsettles by making no location safe, giving even the calmer scenes an added element of creepiness. I found myself searching for danger in each and every corner of the frame, knowing full well that the threat just might be lurking in the distance with the surreal, occasionally dizzying camerawork and blasting electronic score aiding the proceedings every step of the way.
The performances are a solid cut above what you’d expect in a movie like this, subdued and authentic while still portraying the raw terror this situation would entail. Monroe in particular is not only stunning to look at, but has a deeply relatable presence that makes us intuitively care about her. It helps that she has a very solid group of young actors to play off of, and the film wisely avoids the trite family/friend tension that plagues so many cheep slasher films. Sure, these guys will bicker from time to time, but it occurs naturally in the scene, and not because of some forced reason in the script to add false drama. The only weak link is Paul (Keir Gilchrist), a longtime friend of Jay and her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) who’s constant yearning for Jay’s attention even at the most inopportune times grows tiresome.
The only major issue comes in the film’s setting, which is some oddly ambiguous rung between yesteryear and today. Vintage TVs, movies, and cars run amuck, but so do cell phones and strange make-up mirrors that serve as mini Kindles for some reason. The older ascetics certainly aren’t a problem, but it would have been nice if the film had just committed to one time period, preferably around the 80s, as the heavily synth based score meshes beautifully there.
Coming out of It Follows, I had it’s creepy imagery and deeply unsettling music running though my mind for hours on end. I was disturbed, but I also knew that I had just had a great time. It’s a film that is constantly keeping it’s audience guessing, disturbing them one minute, and then making them laugh the next, leading to a wonderfully entertaining experience at the movies. It’s one of the best, most original horror films that has come out of this decade, and whether you check it out now or use it for some added creeps around Halloween time, you owe it to yourself to see just how much a filmmaker who truly embraces his genre can bring to his material.