First and foremost before we begin with this or last weeks blog rather, I would like to apologise for it’s lateness. *For dramatic effect you should read the next line as Nick Offerman*… This is due to the fact that I was in Edinburgh…drinking scotch, so really I don’t have to apologise. But I will be making up for it with two updates, this one and my regular one…but now lets fly through a really fast synopsis to kick this off…
Here we go, So after Jay (Maika Monroe) and her boyfriend have ‘the sex’, he tells her that he has passed a curse onto her and now something will begin to follow her. And when it catches up with her, it will kill her. Sure enough, she begins to experience an inescapable feeling that someone, or something, is after her…*cue creepy music*
It Follows is a subtly creepy, yet beautifully composed shocker, featuring moments of which will haunt you along with the template quote of filler. It blurs the line between sex and death, tapping into some very dark and primal fears such as abandonment, betrayal of loved ones, social ostracism. Most obviously it mines that very specific fear of being pursued so relentlessly by something unknowable, harmful and without-reasoning; that unshakable fear that someone or something is creeping up behind you, getting closer and closer, until you can’t resist the urge and must turn and look…it took me back to when you were younger and watch a horror movie in a friends that you really shouldn’t have, before commencing the one step forward – two steps back walk home.
The atmosphere of dread is evident from the beginning as a panicky opening scene immediately pulls us into the story and forcibly submerges us, breathless with tension, until a shock climax of horrifyingly grotesque imagery reveals what happens when the follower catches up to the followed. The fact that we never see what the girl is running from, only that she is terrified enough to run helplessly, half-dressed past her own father on the way to her car in an attempt to escape ‘something’ just adds to emotion of the scene, with the full panning camera clearly and dramatically shows that there isn’t anything behind her. Adding to the odd, ominous feeling throughout is the fact that much of the action takes place in daylight hours, and in places you would expect to find relative safety when being followed by someone or something unknown; buildings bustling with people, bland suburban streets …. saying that there are a few scenes when Jay is being followed where she runs off to an abandoned park by herself to try escape, which as we all know is from ‘How to stay alive when a creepy creep is following you’ manual is a complete no no…but hey, I’m just being picky. It’s this mix of mundane and otherworldly that imbues It Follows with much of its effectiveness.
Many horror films feature unsettling subtext regarding sexuality and sexual angst…this is the perfect time to revisit practically every 80’s slasher movie. So the core premise of It Follows is just another strand from the 80’s subtext, this time that act of ‘the sex’ instigates untold terror when a curse is passed between lovers…and when you think about it It Follows is a far better movie title then ‘The Curse of the STD’…which sounds like an over 18 episode of Scooby Doo. David Robert Mitchell’s script carefully lingers on the moral implications of the situation as Jay agonises over whether or not she can bring herself to pass on the curse to someone else. Her boyfriend assures her she’ll have no problems doing so as she’s ‘so pretty’…is that a compliment?
Underpinning the fairy tale aspects is the almost complete absence of parental figures; Jay’s alcoholic mother is momentarily glimpsed around the house, but she is never shown to engage with her daughters. It isn’t necessarily an unloving relationship they have…it’s just how things are. Jay and her sister seem protective of her, they discuss how telling her about certain things is not an option, she just couldn’t handle it….suggesting that there is a lot more going on then we are told. Her father is only depicted as a figure in a long-ago taken photo suggests that his absence, though we aren’t told why and that may be the reason for their mother’s alcoholism. The entire film is peppered with these little subtleties, making for a rich and immersive experience. The fractured family unit speaks of how the younger generation of today has had to grow up fast and learn to survive with little guidance or instruction, with peers substituting for absent parent figures.
Before it’s torn apart and rendered utterly terrifying, writer/director David Robert Mitchell creates a world instantly familiar in its reassuring mundanity, peopled by normal characters. A strange sadness, perhaps a lamentation of lost childhood, wafts throughout, as adolescent characters face unimaginable horrors just beyond, but oftentimes within their cosy, tree-lined suburban environs, as they emerge into adulthood and experience firsthand its myriad dangers and traumas. There’s something about the autumn that speaks of the melancholy of years spent in beige-tinted suburbia, longing for life to begin and stuff to happen….I’m still waiting!
Mitchell creates a subtle mythology around the ‘otherworldly stalker.’ In an effort to catch up to them, the follower takes on the guise of people its victims know and love, but we never find out what it is, where it came from or even how it came to being. For all we know, it’s an ageless, timeless thing that has just always been following marked individuals across the globe…scary thought. We glimpse it in various forms, some genuinely unsettling but the most terrifying thing about it is its sole intention: to violently destroy whoever it is following. Its purposeful, measured pace ratchets up the tension as Mitchell utilises wide angled shots – again reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Halloween – to suggest the presence of something lurking in the shadowy periphery of the screen, watching. Wraith-like camerawork enhances tension by gliding back and forth between the different viewpoints, or perceptions if you will, of characters, and there’s an uneasy quietness to the composition of many shots. Danger isn’t announced…it is gradually suggested.
As genuinely terrifying as it is, It Follows is also a film brimming with moments of exquisite, un-selfconscious beauty. As mentioned, there are strong visual echoes of John Carpenter’s Halloween, with its quiet, suburban setting resplendent with the shades of autumn, and of Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, with its ethereal, oddly dreamy atmosphere and frequently sun-dappled cinematography. Even the night scenes are lit with a familiar and oddly comforting orange glow of street lights. When things turn horrific and start to encroach upon this setting, the unsettling impact is undeniable. There is frequently striking imagery such as the girl sitting alone on a beach lit by her car headlights….don’t worry it happen with the first ten minutes. The highly atmospheric score comes courtesy of Disasterpiece (Rich Vreeland) and segues between airy, Tangerine Dream-esque sounds, with beautiful yet stark electronic drones which chill the back of the neck, and full-on panicked intensity.
It Follows has a deathly delivery, and is a great representation of a modern horror.