It Follows (2014)
Starring Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
You might not predict that the director of the idyllic, charming, suburban teenage dramedy The Myth of the American Sleepover would wind up delivering a piercing, deeply affecting horror film as his next outing, but with It Follows David Robert Mitchell has crafted a sometimes bone-chilling audience experience that still highlights the experience of what it’s like out there for the average teenager.
Becoming sexually active can be frightening and foreign enough when growing up, and if you’re not safe, it can even be deadly, or you can get lucky and just catch something that might warrant a prescription for topical cream. But what if it meant catching something that was suddenly, without warning, dead set on catching you? Instead of VD, what lingers behind after an ill-conceived sexual encounter in It Follows is more akin to a haunting than a disease.
After an abrupt end to a seemingly innocent night out at the movies, Jay (Maika Monroe) leaves with her date to fornicate in the back of his car out at an abandoned building’s parking lot, only to find herself knocked out and tied up when she comes to. Frightened, she’s told by her date that he’s passed something on to her, and to rid herself, she’ll have to have sex in order to pass it on to someone else. Earlier in the night she was unable to see “it” (in the form of a girl with a yellow dress), but now she does see something and it’s walking right towards her. The rules she’s told are to never go into a room without an exit and always stay ahead of it.
What’s assumed to be a sick game being played on Jay eventually becomes genuinely frightening on a purely base level as she continues to be terrorized by figures ranging from an old woman in a nightgown to a battered teen girl wetting herself in tattered clothing. Her friends aren’t convinced, but as they look after her, they soon encounter the presence even though they never see exactly what Jay is witnessing.
With this simple, primal premise in place, It Follows relies on a number of well executed set pieces that continue to establish the threat of a deathly force stalking Jay relentlessly. The stakes are raised at just the right time during a beach sequence that involves her friends to the point where they can no longer deny that some kind of entity is after their terrorized friend.
There are also quieter, more intimate moments of rekindled affection as Jay and company stay up all night to keep watch, but as the threat keeps coming, Jay becomes a survivalist in other scenes where she seduces young men turned easy marks that are all too willing to be roped into her waking, walking nightmare. If only they knew the price they could pay just to get lucky.
Interestingly, no parents or police are ever involved (because who would believe them, right?), which adds a sense of adventure to It Follows where unlikely team-ups are made and the kids have to fend for themselves. Although the ominous feeling of always being hunted is ever present, there’s a level of comfort and familiarity that complements the horror aspects. There’s a feeling of togetherness – a feeling that tends to dissipate once adulthood hits – where friends have your back and are there to help solve your teenage crisis before any adult (or the outside world) gets any wiser. That camaraderie is essential to the success of It Follows and grounds a concept that could be seen as silly and too simplistic if approached the wrong way.
Also integral is the score by Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, who slaps a synth distorted underbelly that intensifies the scenes involving the relentless undead and livens up moments that otherwise might have dragged. Although it feels slightly more out of place than a traditional score might have, it elevates the film and helps i’s overall execution.
The fears of the unknown, of possession, and sex are personified by the seemingly tortured spirits haunting the chain of the unlucky who chose to be promiscuous with the wrong lover. By the end we don’t know how far back the chain goes; all we know is that it’s walking, and death follows.