For nineteen-year-old Jay, Autumn should be about school, boys and week-ends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her friends must find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not a big horror fan (partly due to the genre being saturated with mediocre fare, and partly due to them giving me the fear!), but I’ll generally make an exception when a film gets strong reviews or tempts me in with an excellent trailer. The reviews didn’t do ‘It Follows’ any harm, but it was the creepy trailer with the terrific music that really got my attention (go watch the trailer if you haven’t seen it already). The film has a very primal premise – there’s a curse going around and it can only be passed on through sexual intercourse. The ‘curse’ takes the form of a person following you, always walking, taking various forms of people you know and people you don’t. If it catches up with you it’ll kill you, at which point the curse reverts back to the previous victim. This intriguing premise is incredibly unsettling, and the film does an excellent job of putting you in the lead character, Jay’s (Maika Monroe) shoes and really making us understand the anxiety derived from knowing that someone is constantly following you and hunting you down.
There are a couple of jumpy moments, but for the most part director Mitchell eschews genre tropes and focuses more on the overwhelming nature of the curse to keep the viewer on edge and to really get into Jay’s fragile psyche. The film is gripping from start to finish, and it generates a great deal of tension from its creepy premise as Jay tries to stay one step ahead of her tormentor, whilst her friends try to work out ways to get rid of the curse. Maika Monroe is very good in the lead role, believably scared and tormented without resorting to shrillness and screaming, but the real reason for the film’s success is director David Robert Mitchell and several aesthetic choices he made that helps to create a terrific piece of horror cinema.
The film is shot in Detroit (Mitchell’s hometown), and the city as a location is used really well, with the idyllic suburbs contrasted with the abandoned neighbourhoods and rundown buildings that populate this unique city. I’ve always been fascinated with areas of abandonment, particularly in modern environments, and this fed into my enjoyment with Mitchell really ramping up the creepiness in his choice of locations. The haunting 70/80’s esque score is brilliantly retro and reminiscent of John Carpenter’s classics from that period (‘Halloween‘ is a clear influence in particular) and it really helps to create a foreboding atmosphere, with the music from the trailer in particular creating a perfect fusion with the events on screen. Mitchell’s direction is clever throughout and plays well off the premise by keeping the viewer on edge, constantly toying with expectations and the fear of not knowing if someone is ‘following’ or if it’s just a normal person.
The film reaches a stunning conclusion that features the best pool scene climax since ‘Let The Right One In’ before delivering a perfect ending that is delightfully ambiguous. ‘It Follows’ is a creepy horror thriller, kept superbly grounded by director Mitchell and the strong performances led by Maika Monroe, with an excellent retro soundtrack that harks back to genre films from the 70’s and 80’s. This is a terrific film and one of the best horror movies in recent memory.
Directed By: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto, Olivia Luccardi and Lili Sepe