Last year was undoubtedly a weak year for mainstream wide release theatrical horror movies. With every passing movie I kept hoping for a good one. Yet a lot of them ended up on my top 10 worst films of the years. “Devil’s Due”, “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”, “V/H/S: Viral”, and especially the horrendous “Ouija”. “Oculus” was the year’s biggest bright spots for the genre (I have yet to see the “Babadook”). This year is much improved in the fact that none of the ones I’ve seen, had me pulling my hair in frustration. “Unfriended” and “Poltergeist” aren’t great but they are harmless and at the very least watchable. “It Follows ” though represents filmmaking at its finest in the horror genre. A strong script, solid performances, and an atmosphere filled with tension and dread. “It Follows” isn’t the scariest film ever made but it’s one of the smartest horror films in recent years that does stick with you after the credits roll.
Reveling in mystery “It Follows” follows (no pun intended) a young girl as she involved in a sexual encounter. She then realizes that a mysterious entity is following her everywhere she goes. It changes forms, it could be anyone, it may move slowly but it will find what it’s looking for. Now she and the rest of her friends try their best to avoid it or get brutally killed by it.
The jokes have already been made around the internet, “so the demon is an STD? lol” But, that is the easiest way of explaining what the demon is. The director/screenwriter really doesn’t set up a mythology around it and it isn’t some devil from hell that you need an exorcism for. The movie keeps it simple and mysterious. It is a demon that follows you and that’s all you really need to know. The rest is up to the audience’s interpretation which makes the film even scarier. The unknown is scarier than anything you can show on screen. So after the movie is over, you start to think about it while you walk down the street or even in your own bedroom. The film really sticks with you; which is something a good horror movies should do; it’s unsettling.
Speaking of interpretation, this movie has a lot to ambiguous nature that it forces you to analyze and interpret. There is a lot of on screen symbolism with this picture and the movie never explains it to you. It’s all up to the viewers eye to see if they can catch it and dissect the meaning. There is always little visual clues and hints but the director wisely it all open ended. This gives “It Follows” something else to it, re-watch ability. “It Follows” not only has that but also deals with one’s sexuality. Never passing judgment on such topics (unlike the overtly preachy “Man, Women and Children”) but presents the material in such a manner that raises questions and at times reflection on sexuality.
Like I said towards the beginning of this review, this isn’t the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. The movie never really leaves you shaking chilled to your bone like some of the other great horror films. However this movie is consistently exciting, suspenseful and a has a real gorgeous atmosphere to it. You’re always going to be glued to the screen waiting to see what happens next, and how the characters will (or won’t) survive. There are certainly some great scares in the movie and yet I can’t recall any jump scares either. This movie relies more heavily on the air of the atmosphere and the horror of the unknown.
This is only director David Robert Mitchell’s 2nd big screen film. I had not seen “The Myth of the American Sleep Over” (but haven’t heard a great number of positive things about that film either) but I was overly impressed with his directing skills with this movie. Mitchell is able to keep things very tense and fill the air with a sense of dread. Behind the camera is where he impresses the most. He has these beautifully framed shots, great tracking dolly movements and excellent attention to detail. He really pays a lot of homage to old John Carpenter films , especially “Halloween” (I swear some of the soundtrack sounds exactly like the one in that movie). Plus he creates a really unique setting where the movie doesn’t really tell you the time period it takes place in. It’s a mix between 4 or 5 different eras of settings and teenagers. Which in a sense sort of makes this film feel more timeless.
The ending will have you talking and discussing long after the movie. Some will call it lazy but given the movie’s own love of abstract material it has more to it than we probably realize. Either way this makes for one of the smartest horror movies in recent years, one that will be remembered for a long time. Plus after a year of horror like last year this is a welcome breath of fresh air.