Dir- David Robert Mitchell
Starring- Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Jake Weary
UK Cinema Release 27th Feb 2015
Having gained a lot of critical praise in its release and screening at festivals, IT FOLLOWS arrives with the acclaim of ‘one of the most striking American horror films in years,’ and it is deserving of this praise to an extent, as the end result of watching this film feels like you’ve seen something that comes out as a curious cross between art house and horror flick, and a horror flick to carry on the oft used slasher motif of “sex equals death.”
Opening with an excellently tense scene, of a teen girl running out of her house and staring behind her, terrified of whatever is there, then making a getaway in a car only to end up at the beach right next to the shore, the furthest she can go until we then see her mangled and bloodied corpse the next day, the film sets a disturbing tone and punch in this opening that it slowly loses in the first part but then retains once the story kicks into full gear. We are then shown our main character of the film, Jay (played by THE GUEST’s Maika Monroe). She is currently seeing a guy, Hugh (Weary) and after a night of intimacy with him in the back of his car, things turn sour when after he has drugged her and tied her to a wheelchair. A visibly distraught Hugh then informs her that she has inherited a curse where she will be followed by ominous figures that only she can see and they can prove fatal to her if they get close enough. Hugh disappears and leaves Jay with the consequences and aftermath of this information he has provided and the ordeal she was put through.
It’s not long before soon she starts to see figures of people she doesn’t know walking towards her, with a fixated vision only on her, a neat and unnerving effect that causes some creepy tense scenes simply aided by the fact of someone walking towards a character. These manifestations of the curse appear to her both at school and at home, leaving Jay a physical wreck, with the persistent aura of death approaching at every turn. Along with her sister Kelly (Sepe), and friends Yara (Luccardi) and Paul (Gilchrist) they set out to find a way to rid the curse.
IT FOLLOWS certainly has a minimalist feel to it, and a style or pace that can be attributed to a director not familiar or experienced in the horror genre. It could be said that if this was given to a director used to genre cinema then it might have come across as a straightforward stalk and chase horror flick, with added quiet, quiet, bang shock moments (which IT FOLLOWS does use in one scene of characters in peril) but under Mitchell there is a certain sense of slow driven pace and examination of suburban alienation of youth, but carried off with style, and a creeping sense of dread and horror underneath the all too familiar suburban neighbourhood on which are characters are drawn out on. Mike Gioulakis’s cinematography is superb and captures some excellent stylistic scenes, especially in utilising the widescreen ratio to make sure that the viewer notices something out of the corner of the screen that can eventually become more significant and more threatening.
Certainly the shocks and scares come from the scenes of the “curse” in various disguises walking towards Jay, that are effective in there simple execution. The focus on the teenage characters, who are particularly good in their roles, is interesting and carry’s a naturalistic style in the performances from the cast, not being irritating or un-engaging and recalls the work of Larry Clark or even Gus Van Sant’s superb ELEPHANT which focused on a massacre in a high school, and had a strong realistic take on a dark event. It’s also interesting to note that very few, if any of the parents are shown, almost adding a divide in a real environment to what the younger characters are up against in the form of a supernatural curse, which only they can understand and take on as the adult world will not be able to fathom.
Though it’s not wholly original as the “sex equals death” theme, a familiar horror trope, is given a new spin, and the one film that IT FOLLOWS does seem to reference or undoubtedly take an influence on is John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN and much like that film there are scenes of horror and terror in a suburban environment, with long slow steadicam shots of characters walking along footpaths on tree lined streets unaware that something deadly is around the corner. Even the film’s score, by Rich Freeland, also has a dark and piercing synth and piano style throughout that would have fitted right into a Carpenter film. Mitchell certainly must have taken an influence from HALLOWEEN, as even the “sex equals death “theme that was used in that particular film (and then 100 other slasher movies that followed), is the main defining cause of the curse, and it’s this idea that feeds into a sort of urban legend esque story that IT FOLLOWS certainly has an edge towards.
Certainly this film will probably divide horror audiences, and yes while not being wholly original, and having a sudden abrupt ending, that might leave you scratching your head and feeling that a better more rounded ending is needed, the overall product ends up feeling like an art house horror film, which might come off as being too horror for the art house crowd and too art house for the horror crowd. Yet after having time to reflect on it, and certainly wanting to see it again, I appreciated the films style and unnerving and effective scenes of terror, placed into a familiar environment, which will mark IT FOLLOWS as a unique take on genre cinema and a possibly future cult classic.