It Follows, 2014
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell
Starring Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe, Keir Gilchrist, Bailey Spry, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto
For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her.
Whenever someone thinks the horror genre has just become brown-stained remakes and derivative straight-to-video nonsense, a movie like It Follows comes out and shakes the foundations. A brilliantly written movie, superbly acted and masterfully directed, It Follows is tremendous in every sense of the word.
Like a urban legend you never knew, It Follows tells the story of young and naive girl Jay (Maika Monroe) who innocently sleeps with a boy from her school, only to discover that he’s passed something to her. This ‘it’ is now following her, manifested in a physical form. But only she can see it, and it won’t stop following her until she is either dead or passes it on to someone else.
It Follows is quite obviously a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases and the dangers that come with them. It’s not exactly the most subtle of metaphors and even the dumbest of folks can work this out, but It Follows never acts smug about what it’s saying. It knows that the audience will twig to what David Robert Mitchell is trying to say, and therefore it doesn’t act like it’s better that you for being so ‘clever’. The metaphor also works in its favour because its played so naturally. In one post-coital sequence the characters talk about if they feel any different, which could be used in your average teen coming of age movie and wouldn’t feel out of place.
And that’s the key to It Follows‘ success – it’s simplicity. Furthermore it’s a horror movie in which you connect, admire and like the characters on screen, making you want to root for them to win in the end and overcome this terrible affliction that won’t leave them alone. The sisterly bond between is incredibly sweet and believable, as is the dorky friend-zone relationship between Jay and Paul (a superb Keir Gilchrist). Even the subtle backstory relationship Jay has with neighbour Greg is played beautifully, which builds to an epic climax later on in the movie. This is not your average slasher movie filled with dingbat jocks and dense cheerleaders – It Follows is a movie about characters and your adventure along with them.
Monroe is the shining star here and shows once again why she is an actor that is on the rise. She was fantastic in last year’s The Guest (one of the more criminally underrated movies of 2014), but here she plays a more natural role. She is so brilliantly sweet, likeable and innocent that it really makes you warm to her when she’s happy and fear for her when she is in trouble. As mentioned previously, Gilchrist is the best of the supporting players, but credit should also be given to Daniel Zovatto, who is excellent as the friendly neighbour Greg. There isn’t a duff piece in this puzzle and they all connect perfectly.
But at the end of the day this is a horror movie and therefore needs to be scary and unnerving – and It Follows succeeds in both instances. Mitchell has taken a lot of inspiration from John Carpenter (especially in its beautiful synth score) and It Follows is very much like the original Halloween. It relishes in its slow, methodical pace and the longer it goes the more uncomfortable you become. And because you are seeing the movie through the eyes of Jay (who is the only person who can see the thing following her) and you know it can’t be too far behind, you find yourself scanning every inch of the frame, terrified that it might be round the corner or lurking in the background. Back once again to the beauty of its simple set-up, It Follows never lets you settle or come to a state of ease. Mitchell is a masterful director (shown in the equally excellent The Myth of the American Sleepover) and his execution of horror is second to none.
There are arguments to be made that the third act is problematic, and these issues are fairly valid. The movie does forgo some of its quieter tones for a quasi-Home Alone escapade, but there is underlying subtext there to be read if you want to look for it. Like last year’s The Babadook (or even Captain America: The Winter Solider), It Follows probably could have survived without this ‘climactic ending’, but it’s hardly a deal breaker and certainly doesn’t remove any of the fear that had been built up in the previous two acts.
It Follows is a movie that will stay with you long after the credits roll and play into your subconscience as you’re walking home from the cinema. Not only that, but it will play on your mind for days and weeks on end, forcing you to check over your shoulder in case it is following you too. David Robert Mitchell is a superstar writer and director and Maika Monroe is one of the best female talents in the industry today. The two deserve huge breaks off the back of this, but perhaps we wouldn’t get gems like It Follows if they did. Simply put, It Follows is a horror classic in the making and should be hailed as one of the best movies of 2015.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.