It Follows, 2014.
Directed by David Robert Mitchell.
Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe.
Jay, a young woman, is excited to be dating the handsome Hugh. However after the two become intimate, Jay finds herself drugged and once awakened strapped to a wheelchair, from which Hugh explains that she will now be constantly followed by a creature who will not stop unless it kills her or she passes on the curse that draws the creature to her.
The horror film, at least the American horror film, has been struggling to create a work that will stand the test of time as a gold standard of the genius that horror cinema can achieve. The last decade or so has seen the genre been stuck with gimmicks, like the “torture porn” craze that came with the likes of the Saw franchise and Hostel, or the “found footage” boom emerged following the massive success of the atrocious Paranormal Activity films.
Something that is becoming apparent is that the truly great horror films do not come from the major Hollywood studios; they haven’t bankrolled a truly great horror film in years, instead just churning out one turd after another. No, the truly original and interesting horror films come from the indie world, the world of the film festival; it is here that I think horror’s future lies.
Why this long diatribe about indie horror cinema you ask?
Well because it is this world that the subject of today’s review comes from, the truly inventive and brilliant independent horror It Follows.
The thing that this film absolutely nails throughout almost every minute of its runtime is maintaining feelings of suspense and dread, feelings that bear down on the viewer like a tonne of bricks on Jupiter. You’re always looking over the shoulders of the protagonists looking for “IT”. Every person might be “IT”, every person might not be “IT”, but the constant uncertainty keeps you on your toes, keeping you constantly guessing and worrying, knowing that “IT” is mere footsteps away.
The titular monster of the film is also a work of genius, merely for its sheer simplicity of its design and execution. “IT” can like anyone, a complete stranger or your best friend, taking its time in hunting down its victims, always calmly walking, perhaps savouring the thrill of the hunt.
While you would think that the leisurely pace that “IT” hunts down Jay would gradually deliver diminishing returns in relation to the amount of fear instilled in the viewer, I would argue that however this is what keeps the monster terrifying. No matter how far Jay might run, no matter how fast she might run, “IT” will always be following her, until it finally kills her or passes the curse on.
Now many critics have examined what “IT” is supposed to represent. Many argue for the more obvious theory that the creature is a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases, given that the curse that attracts it to victims is passed on via sex.
However, others have argued, and it’s a theory I agree with, is that “IT” is a metaphor for death itself. Death follows us throughout our entire lives, we can try to outrun it and we can put huge amounts of distance between ourselves and death, but it always follows us, it always eventually catches up with us, just like “IT” in the film.
The film’s cast led by a stellar turn from Maika Monroe (who some might recognise from The Guest, more on that film next week) as our protagonist Jay, who resolves with her friends to defeat “IT”. The resolve of Jay to try and destroy the creature ultimate makes her appear as much stronger protagonist, ensuring that we are at her side in the fight, rather than if she passed the curse like the less heroic Hugh.
The supporting cast is also on fine form with particular props to Keir Gilchrist as Paul, a sympathetic and lovable goof, obviously in love with Jay, to the point that offers to take the curse upon himself to save her life. Yet despite his heroic offer, even though he would be risking his life, Jay still doesn’t find him to be boyfriend material, further confining the poor bastard to the dreaded “friend zone” .
The film’s soundtrack courtesy of electronic artist Disasterpiece, is a powerful score with more than a few homage’s to classic 80s horror music. My personal favourite is the opening track entitled Heels with scores the opening sequence, creating just the right nightmarish atmosphere that gels perfectly with the films terrifying beginnings.
A terrifying atmosphere coupled with a frightening and original choice of monster; make It Follows one of the best horror experiences of the decade so far and further proof that the future of horror cinema rests not in the machinery of the big Hollywood studio, but in the world independent cinema.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★