Being Robert David Mitchell’s second feature, It Follows succeeds in its base objective of terrifying you. The over-the-shoulder camerawork and particularly uncrowded shots keep your eyes darting around the screen trying to guess where the next shock will come from.
Following Jay (played by Maika Monroe) and her group of teenage friends, who try to help her escape her sexually transmitted curse, many aspects of the film echo horror from the 70s and 80s, most notably John Carpenter. This, as Mark Kermode points out, is a completely natural progression as Carpenter and other directors, such as David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi, spent their efforts re-hashing the 50s and 60s horror of their childhoods and therefore is completely understandable that a 21st century director would allude to the directors of his childhood. The sunny suburban streets of Detroit, filled with teenagers and deprived of parents, pays direct homage to Carpenter’s Halloween and the score, composed by Disasterpeace, could have been plucked from a number of Carpenter films.
The curse is in the form of a shape shifting being, often changing into familiar faces from the cursed’s life, that relentlessly follows the victim, at a slow walking pace, with the intention of finally catching up with and killing them. When receiving the curse the only way to pass it on is to engage in intercourse with someone as “it”, which can only be seen by those who have been cursed, then goes onto follow the recipient until they are killed, when the morphing stalker then continues back up the chain. A large proportion of the fear in the film, aside from the genre classic instances of knowing that the fear factor is close to the camera or characters but not being able to see it, comes from the state of awareness that you are put under. This puts you on edge as any slow moving extra walking towards the characters or the camera could be “it”.
The setting, while slightly clichéd, works perfectly and brings elements of social context and criticism beyond the surface level of the film. It echoes Charles Burns’s Black Hole comics and while it can be seen as a comment on venereal disease and the rising promiscuity of teenagers it is never explicitly made clear as a function. The sex is often darkly portrayed, especially the scene in which we see Jay wade into water to accompany three frat-esque males on a boat in order to pass on the curse, and seems to torment Keir Gilchrist’s Paul character who sees numerous people sleep with Jay, who he clearly has feelings for, before turning to him as a last resort to pass the curse to him. This is another feature of the film that differs from the majority of modern horror. While a lot of horror films made since the millennium are interested in the dismantling or the picking off of a group of friends, It Follows is more concerned with the aid that friends can give you in times of despair.
On a base level, the soundtrack and plot couple to create the tension needed for It Follows to be seen as a solid horror effort and the camerawork, location and cinematography allow it to be seen as steering in an art house direction. The overall resonance of the film leaves scares way after it is finished, whether it being towards promiscuity or the fear that at any moment you could be thrust into a truly frightening situation by something that is very familiar and in no rush.
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Stars: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Runtime: 100 mins