It Follows Review

It Follows
Written and Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

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The best examples of horror find strength in simplicity. The tried-and-true method for finding effectively good scares has been to take the familiar and turn it into something frightening. John Carpenter took everyday suburbia and made it a nightmare zone. Alfred Hitchcock made the daily routine of showering a place for destruction.

Horror does not require great emphasis on character development or expansive plot. The genre, much like comedy, relies mostly on pacing and delivery. The mood and atmosphere enhance the narrative on screen and lure the audience in before making them vulnerable to inevitable fear. David Robert Mitchell’s new film It Follows understands what works in the genre and elevates it. His attention to detail takes the traditions that have been embedded in the history and presents a new and genuinely scary vision.

The film opens with a 360 degree pan of a panicked girl running from her house into the street. The context has not been established yet. We’re both intrigued and alarmed by the mystery of the situation. We soon switch gears to our protagonist Jay, played by Maika Monroe. She is a young girl who enjoys floating in her pool and going on dates to Cary Grant movies. After sleeping with her boyfriend, she discovers he has passed a curse onto her.

He tells her “it” takes the appearance of anyone and is a moving presence always walking towards you; all you can do is keeping running away. The premise is both curiously plain and strikingly creepy. Not only is it always following you, but no one else can see it. This is an idea that has been shown and reshown in countless examples of horror, a recent one being Ringu. Mitchell’s comprehension of horror tropes give substantial weight to his simple plot.

A common cliché in horror is sex being the precursor to death. In It Follows, sex is knocking on Hell’s gate with all your luggage in hand. Mitchell lures us into the sexual sequence with a slow track in to the couple in the backseat of their car. Unlike most movie sex scenes, this one is actually done tastefully. We stay outside of the car and are given zero nude shots. Whereas many films indulge in the excess of cinematic sexuality, this scene is displayed as pure innocence.

It’s a moment of calmness before taking us into the heightened terror that becomes Jay’s condition. Throughout the film, we see this entity take the guise of various people. The fear becomes an unending paranoia Jay can’t shake, shouting out to see if a walking person is it or, in fact, just a walking person.

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Much like John Carpenter’s Halloween, Mitchell takes the normalcy of suburban life and gives it a jolt of terror. The environment is both inviting and cautionary. Jay and her friends spend their time hanging out on porches and watching TV. It’s nothing overtly exciting, but it’s authentic to anyone who’s been a teenager. We can see ourselves in these situations which helps lower our guard before throwing any sense of safety away. Jay’s friends help her buy time but can only help to a degree given the nature of this threat. They stay by her side throughout, even when it becomes clear this monster is not just inside Jay’s head.

Every scene is dialed up to eleven with the help of the much talked about score. Artist Disasterpeace draws heavily on ’80s soundtracks and gives a modern twist to make for one of the most memorable scores in a while. Music in any horror film provides the eerie disturbance which lets the fear sink in. The film follows a rhythm of quiet melodic scenes giving way to catastrophic intensity. As with the characters on screen, there is no real escape from any of this. All you can do is react.

While the film is energized by several extreme sequences, the plot maintains a lingering sense of dread. A dread that no matter what, the evil that stalks you will eventually catch up. Jay and her friends relocate throughout the film, giving all attempt to distance themselves which proves pointless. But her friends never give up on her. Compared to other horror films where the teenagers serve as marks on the enemy’s tally sheet, the friends here are loyal to Jay. They may represent the one-dimensional stock characterization that is foundational in the slasher subgenre, but they also give Jay a firm army as she is knighted the new scream queen. Their involvement in the narrative helps realize the mundane nature of the setting. It’s a world very recognizable and ordinary. Similar to the sex scene, we the audience are slowly tracking in to this world before being confronted with the overwhelming horror. — James Leggett

SCORE: 4.5 stars





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  • Bmprooney

    Laughs are to comedy as scares are to horror. If you didn’t laugh, the comedy didn’t work for you. If you didn’t get scared, it wasn’t horrific. I feel the critical fervor for this film is similar to the Babadook. Good movie, but not scary.

    “The premise is both curiously plain and strikingly creepy.”

    The premise is too simple. The rules are ambiguous. The monster’s presence allows for too many applied metaphors. A sequel would clear this up, but to heck with a sequel.

    “Artist Disasterpeace draws heavily on ’80s soundtracks and gives a modern twist to make for one of the most memorable scores in a while.”

    I’d say Drive, House of the Devil, and the Guest did it first. I can’t say they were better because this soundtrack wasn’t bad at all. It’s awesome, but it’s not new.

    4.5 stars is just to heavy for me not to respond. Understandable review though. Looking forward to the episode! Greatest podcast of all time.

  • Jameson

    It’s interesting you say that about the premise/rules, cause I’ve always felt that way about the original Halloween. I always feel the rules don’t add up when I watch it. It’s not till the sequels that we get a better understanding of things.

  • Sam

    I didn’t love It Follows as much as others seem, but it’s simplicity and and it’s ambiguous rules where part of its strength I felt.

    As far as the soundtrack goes, I don’t think it’s very fair to say The Guest did it first as an example. They both premiered fairly close to each other, and both movies word of mouth started at the same time with TIFF last year.

    That said, my problems with movie lies more with a pretty weak climax, but other than that, I thought it was pretty effective horror movie overall though and enjoyed it.

  • Captain Morgan

    If I had any criticism with the film, it would only be that the characters are pretty one dimensional as you say, but even that works to suit the tone of the movie I think. Sean, Jay and Frank need to review this.

  • Bmprooney

    Good point.

  • Kyle Grimes

    Is this a joke? This movie was laughable it was so bad.

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace

    I had avoided reviews of this since I was waiting to see it, and now that I have
    seen it and have read a few things, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen more comparisons to “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, as there were quite a few things that reminded me of it, down to the “rules” and even certain scenes in particular. In both, the killer can seemingly pop up out of nowhere, can take the appearance of anyone (taking on different forms to handle specific situations), and can interact with the rest of the world without being seen. The friends in this film are kind of serving the same purpose as the friends that try to keep the NOES protagonist from falling asleep. I enjoyed it quite a bit though, and I think that there are some other ideas that they can play with if they do a sequel. For instance, I thought they’d play with the “both the person that has the curse AND the person that gave it to them” idea would be used to their advantage some more, as you’d think it’d be easier to fight off an otherwise invisible killer if two people could see it instead of just one.

  • Horror movies don’t have to be scary. Horror means much more than just some “scares” quotient. TCM, the greatest horror movie ever made, isn’t scary.

    Same for comedies. Plenty of styles of comedy aren’t meant to illicit laughter, satire being the most common.

    If you judge horror movies and comedies, by scares/laughs per minute, much like Frank, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Bmprooney

    True. A favorite comedy of mine is Sideways, and I’m not in hysterics while watching that. However, I will say TCM is at times scary, or at least, it is much scarier than It Follows. When Leatherface slams the door shut; that is horror.

  • Jameson

    Good point. I’ve always been more into the thought provoking horror films. I found It Follows more intense than scary.

  • Kevin Polk

    Somebody should lose their job for failing to make more box office $ off It Follows. First, they bollocks up the theatrical release, taking weeks to open it wide, by which time the buzz around the movie – which was high – had faded. Who even knew whether it was in a local theater? By the time it probably was, I wasn’t thinking about it anymore. Then they stalled with getting it onto digital platforms like iTunes. Still can’t rent or buy it. Looks like mid-July? For a movie that was much talked about and which got great reviews to parlay that into only $14M box office, well, like I said, somebody should get fired. It should have been available everywhere immediately to capitalize on the hype.