If there is one obtuse movie sub-genre that will bring a smile to my face, it is the indie horror film. I love my independent horror films. Being an aspiring filmmaker, seeing some guy make a shocker with $300,000, a bucket of Karo syrup blood, and a dream gives me hope for my future. Whether they be the revolutionary type (Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or the gore soaked romps (Evil Dead 2, You’re Next), if it’s indie, it’ll probably warm my heart just a tad more. So, when hearing that It Follows was one of the scariest indie horror films in the past decade I had to check it out.
Maika Monroe plays Jay, a gorgeous 19 year old who can basically have any boy she wants. After a night walking through the woods with Hugh (played by Jake Weary) ends in the throngs of passion in the backseat of his car, Hugh then abruptly warns Jay that she will be stalked slowly and killed by something unless she passes along what he just gave to her. This leads to Jay and her friends trying to stay one step ahead of something that always follows.
If writer/director David Robert Mitchell does one thing extraordinarily well in this film, it is the ability to make the viewer feel like they are slowly descending into a nightmare. Being someone who has a great fear of being stalked or watched, It Follows had me thoroughly creeped the hell out 90% of the time. The setting has a very retro-chic look to it, with old bunny ear TVs, movie theaters playing classic films, and vintage angular cars, which give the film an indescribably unique style and vision (although it’s impossible to guess when this film takes place). Loaded with eerie wide angle lens shots, the footage has a cold and impersonal feel. The overcast skies, crisp red and orange leaves, and grungy broken-down suburban setting makes the film ooze autumn and would definitely warrant a perfect viewing around Halloween.
The suspense in this film is top-notch. It Follows is sort of like the Drive of horror films. It may move at a much slower pace, but once it delivers it packs one hell of a wallop. There is hardly a moment where you feel comfortable watching this film. When seeing the broken body of “its” first victim at the five minute mark in the film, you better strap yourself in because it’s not getting any easier the rest of the movie. The entity itself is a clever notion, being able to take the form of any person (presumably previous victims) or any loved one. This leads the viewer to take note of anyone that is simply walking about in the near vicinity, and it makes the ambiguous ending all the more haunting.
The idea of being stalked and killed in horror films is far from new, but the idea of this stalker being transferred by something as human as sex makes it all the more terrifying. You know that “rule” that states you can’t do anything naughty in horror otherwise you die? Well, this film takes it to the most literal extreme. However, there’s no real explanation given to it. Why is this thing attracted to something so specific as sex? Many critics have seen It Follows as an allegory for AIDs or STDs, but I feel the film doesn’t treat the idea of the entity in the proper way to be that. Maybe if the twist was revealed later on in the film, or even if the film came right out and said, “Girl, you got dem boogie man herpes!” If the film is working as a safe sex campaign, it fails in that regard, too, because it’s literally telling our heroine to pass it on to someone else.
My final gripe with It Follows is the characters. None of them really stood out to me, felt real, or even had interesting personalities. All of them were very bland and not much screen time is given to their development, which is a shame. When your film moves at a deliberately slow pace, you should give more time to your characters.
On a positive note, the crowning achievement of It Follows is the soundtrack. A haunting synth score that could belong in a John Carpenter film of old, artist Disasterpeace did a marvelous job at capturing that old school level of camp and creep and modern suspense and shock, creating one of the best horror movie scores in recent memory.
So, my final verdict on It Follows? A damn fine horror film. Though I do have some nitpicks with the vagueness of the monster and blandness of the characters, the sheer suspense, atmosphere, and just overall creepiness of the film is more than enough to outweigh the negatives. The cinematography is brilliant, giving the film a very distinct, memorable style and look. For some, the idea of a creature that stalks you after sex just might be too obtuse to be scary, and the slow pace might turn them off, but if you appreciate a horror movie in the same vein of classic Carpenter you’re going to have a blast with It Follows. Just don’t come crying to me when you can’t get it up for your next rendezvous.
(Title image via).