It Follows, 2015.
Directed by David Robert Mitchell.
Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary, Debbie Williams and Daniel Zovatto.
A teenage girl is cursed by a supernatural force after a sexual encounter with her boyfriend.
It Follows is one of those horror movies that arrived on the scene with a buzz already surrounding it, primarily thanks to a premise that involves a threat that is passed around via sexual activity and the promise of a gorgeous young cast willingly getting their kit off in a display of wild abandon in order to attract an audience – well, hold that thought. Whilst many have already given credit to the originality of the central plot about a curse being passed on by having sex, let us not forget the works of directors such as David Cronenberg and, if you want to go even more bizarre, Frank Henenlotter, who have both made films involving the distortion of sex and the idea of sex being the conduit for bad things to happen, And granted, the actual threat in It Follows is a supernatural one rather than one of the body turning on itself, but how many curse movies have there been since Ringu convinced us all that video tapes were credible vessels for evil beings from other dimensions to cross over and kill us? Sorry, but you’ll have to do better than that if you want to be called original.
What It Follows is trying to do is set up a mythology but every mythology in horror movies needs to have rules, and in It Follows there doesn’t seem to be any. Basically, there is a curse that is passed on when the carrier has sex with somebody and that curse manifests itself in any way it likes to the said victim, the only constant being that the curse will be in the shape of a person that follows you very slowly until it catches you and kills you. An idea with possibilities but presented here in an underdeveloped way that leaves more questions than it provides answers; remember that scene in Gremlins 2 when the office workers are asking about the rules of the Mogwai and is there a time limit on feeding them after midnight, and so on? Those are the sorts of questions that It Follows raises, because it never approaches its premise with any logic or a satisfactory explanation as to why certain things are as they are – why does the curse appear as people? Who are those people? What relevance do they have to the cursed victim? Where did the curse stem from? Why do the apparitions move so slowly? How come nobody else can see them, implying they are ghostly, yet a bullet will halt them for a few seconds and produce blood? Why do they appear randomly in odd places? How long do you have to wait before it disappears for a bit? Why don’t they run? Why, for a film with a central theme of sex, is there so little nudity?
Alright, the last question may not be massively important on the face of it but what it implies is that this is a film designed for a younger teenage audience, so the sex is performed clothes on and the violence is toned town. Not a massive problem in itself if it works for the film but the neutered feel to the visuals is an extension of the undercooked ideas about teenage problems that writer/director David Robert Mitchell subtly implies but does nothing with.
On the plus side, It Follows does allow its teenage characters to act like teenagers rather than dumbing them down too much. The off-kilter atmosphere that Mitchell creates helps with the metaphors that the film is rife with but the idea that teenagers band together when one of them is in trouble, regardless of who did what to whom, is employed well and gives you at least a hint of investment in their plight, even if the plight itself isn’t that well thought out. The score is also a positive, evocative of John Carpenter and the way he used music to highlight an impending threat without having to actually show anything at that moment, and when used properly the effect is greater than anything that Mitchell comes up with in his script.
But overall, It Follows is tremendously disappointing. Somewhere in David Robert Mitchell’s head there is a fuller, more complete version of this story, as the director has claimed he got the idea from a recurring nightmare, but the end result that we have here is as vague and nonsensical as a dream and, like all dreams, means very little to everybody else not involved. The younger adolescent audience that the film is targeting may get some chills out of the images of old ladies stalking sexually active teenagers – especially if they haven’t seen The Shining – but those looking for the next big thing in horror will have to keep on looking because It Follows does as its name suggests – follows, but it never leads.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★