The concept of a modern horror movie goes as follows: hot teenagers, recreational drugs, copious sexual activity, secluded location, serial killer, jump scares and credits. Granted, this goes for if the film even decides to go for an R rating, as many horror films revel in a PG-13 rating nowadays. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, with movies like The Lazarus Effect and Insidious helping PG-13 horror films establish themselves nicely, it certainly isn’t a complete waste. Now, for every one effective horror film, we have two or three that aren’t good, in fact, are quite atrocious, with movies like Ouija and Annabelle making waves at the box office, it’s hard to have much faith anymore. It Follows has these conventions about it and is quite inconspicuous in it’s nature, so imagine my delight when it expands to a wide release this weekend. Why am I so happy about that?
Because It Follows is the horror film we’ve been waiting for.
What follows exactly? Here’s the thing, you don’t really know, the concept of an imaginary being makes it so much scarier than a physical demon prowling the screen, even as it takes the form of many things. Jay (Maika Monroe) is a girl who is infatuated with a boy named Hugh (Jake Weary) but upon their first sexual encounter at the end of a date, she is horrified to realize that he has passed along a malevolent force to her to stalk her, as only to rid himself of it. Jay with the help of her sister (Lili Sepe,) her old friend and crush (Keir Gilchrist,) her blunt and funny friend (Olivia Luccardi) and the boy next door (Daniel Zovatto) she goes on a quest to somehow rid herself of “it” without having to pass it on to someone else sexually. The catch is, her friends can’t see it, only she can.
Monroe is fantastic as Jay, simple as that. The problem with a lot of female-led horror films now is that they are so obviously written by men, with the “final girl” always being overly hysterical and loud, while her male counterparts are the voices of reason throughout the piece. While Monroe was anything but calm, I felt her presence, and the justification of her terror. Especially in the sense of her isolation of being the only one to see “it.” Gilchrist is also great as Paul, her old crush. Gilchrist is nicely awkward and sweet, without ever falling into that “this man would probably wear a fedora” territory, which is always inexcusable. The entire ensemble is capable and establishes themselves very nicely.
Director David Robert Mitchell commands this film with such an 80’s vibe about it (including a spectacular synthesizer score from Disasterpiece) that I almost found it hard to believe that, aside from the technology used, the film was made, or even took place in 2015. The film exuded homages to that of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and surprisingly even, Napoleon Dynamite. It was such a unique way to create a universe for this film to take place in, and really harkens back to the golden age of horror, while still staying new and fresh. The accompanying screenplay is clever and funny and always keeps you on the edge of your seat to how the movie is going to end, then kicks you out of the seat to prove to you that this isn’t your standard horror film.
It Follows is not a feel good film, it’s drenched in dread and darkness and is one of the most unsettling movies of late. It does so with such style and grace that it quickly establishes itself as a bonafide modern classic. It doesn’t rely on cheesy jump scares, extreme gore, or any sort of gimmick to entertain the audience and that in itself might turn some people off. It’s a shame that many would write a horror film like this off simply because it didn’t make them jump as something lazier might do. The terror in It Follows feels inescapable and involves the audience greatly, which is what a horror film should do. The world created here is one to be looked twice at, while one of the most decidedly plain suburbs used in a recent film, to simply add the concept of demonic illusion to the whole thing completely shakes up the initial feelings established.
I think that if I can align It Follows along the likes of something like A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Halloween, that’s an accomplishment all it’s own, and one that truly sets It Follows apart from a studio funded horror film. There’s always a certain charm that comes about an indie horror film, with charmers like The Babadook and Oculus, it’s always refreshing to see original ideas come about and ones that terrify so greatly. It’s so refreshing to not only see nice directorial work from Mitchell, but for powerhouse performances to come through the characters as well, it’s so normal to write off the cast of a horror film, but this time, it’s almost impossible, especially with someone like Monroe leading the film. There is an endless amount of allegory and theories you could make about It Follows, but the simple thing about it once you strip it down is that it’s scary, plain and simple, through and through, even if it’s unconventional. It Follows might not make you jump or scream in the theater, but in the end, I promise that you’ll turn around at least once walking home to check to see if you’re alone.
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe.
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
Radius-TWC and Northern Lights Films presents, an Animal Kingdom production, in association with Two Flints, a film by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows