Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary
Written by: David Robert Mitchell
Running Time: 100 mins
Release date: 27th February 2015
There was a common denominator during the slasher horrors of the late 70’s and early 80’s, that if a character went to bed with someone, they would be killed not long after. That premise is explored in greater detail in David Robert Mitchell’s eagerly awaited horror, It Follows, a film that doesn’t so much scare you but has the ability to creep you out.
Jay is 19 years-old and is dating Hugh. Everything seems to be going fine. One night, they decide to sleep together. After the fact, Hugh drugs Jay and takes her to a deserted building where he tells her that she is now cursed. She will be followed and the only way to get rid of them is to sleep with someone else, otherwise they will catch her and kill her and the curse will be passed back to Hugh. At first not believing him, Jay soon realises that the curse is true and she is constantly being followed.
Fans of horror have been getting very excited about this film, saying it could change the face of the once great genre. Admittedly this has all the hallmarks of being a terrific horror but not in the scary sense of the word, instead an appreciation of a style of film-making that sadly doesn’t exist anymore.
Horror film now rely far too much on cheap thrills and overused clichés. The reason they fail to scare is that we don’t care about the people involved or the situations they find themselves. Last year’s horror triumph, The Babadook, managed to break down these barriers and deliver us a scare-fest that played on the mind while at the same time made us care about the leads. The same applies here.
Set in an unclassified time (could be now, yet it could be the 70’s or 80’s) where the kids play Old Maid and watch TV on a square box, it takes the stock teen characters of those slasher horrors like Friday The 13th and breathes new life into them. It’s main influence is John Carpenter’s seminal classic, Halloween. With it’s roaming camera work through leafy suburbs and a film stock that looks like a low-budget production, Mitchell manages to send out a message, a warning, about sleeping around, with a genuinely creepy premise, which he plays out quite brilliantly.
The “thing” that is following the young girl could take the form of anyone. The only distinctive facts about it are that no one else can see them and that they walk. No run, just walk. So throughout the film, while scenes play out in the foreground, some one is walking in the background. It could be quite innocent but mostly, it’s not and they are getting closer.
What also works in its favour is the pacing. Unlike other horror films where it’s all rush-rush and piles of dead bodies, Mitchell takes his time, allowing us to understand each of the young protagonists, all who seem to have their own agenda. The adults seem to be non-existent and if they are, they usually are the ones doing the following.
There are occasions when the film does make the odd wrong foot. Would you really sleep on the bonnet of your car if you are fearful of being caught by your follower? Or do you run to an enclosed area when you could just run to a public space? It also relies on the “quiet, quiet, LOUD” school of horror to get the audience jumping but it’s not over used.
The score also plays an important part. Sounding not too dissimilar to that of John Carpenter’s theme to Halloween, Rich Vreeland’s sound scape of electro-synth manages to create an eerie atmosphere around the proceedings, and while it grows in volume, it still doesn’t intrude to the point of annoyance, rather it builds as the tension does.
The performances from the unknown cast are fine with young Maika Monroe, who we last saw in the equally genre changing, The Guest, proves that she can carry a film and there’s hope for her future. As Jay, she is vulnerable as well as suave, bringing us more than just another paper thin damsel in distress.
A very ambiguous film that might infuriate those who like their horror just a little more obvious, It Follows isn’t perfect by a long shot but it has plenty to praise it and loads of promise. Imagine if Richard Linklater had directed a horror in his early Dazed And Confused days, you will then have an idea of where this film sits. An intelligent horror for those who like their skin to crawl rather than to jump out their seats because of a noise.