Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto
“She can do the same thing I did. It should be easier for her, she’s a girl. Any guy would be with you. Just sleep with someone else and tell him to do the same thing. Maybe it’ll never come back.” (Hugh, It Follows)
Slasher film convention dictates that the killer will often walk slowly towards their victim, who in turn will happily provide suspense by falling over any number of times and making themselves easier to catch.
It Follows takes this often mocked trope and makes it scary again by adding a couple of clever twists.
Jay (the brilliant Maika Monroe) has started seeing a boy she likes. When we’re first introduced to her she has yet to ‘do the deed’ with Hugh, but even though he acts a bit odd at times – seeing people who aren’t there and the like – ugly-bumping is imminent.
Eventually the two decide the time is right and they get jiggy in the back of his car (the sex scenes in this film are tastefully brief and ensure an unrealistic degree of clothing is present).
From that point on though, Mr Nice turns into Mr Smothers Jay With A Chemical-Soaked Rag So She Passes Out Then Ties Her To A Chair. In fairness, he may not have gotten any action had she known that was his actual name.
Jay awakens to find herself tied to a chair (naturally). An apologetic Hugh explains to her that he did what he did to save his life, and that she now has to do the same to save her own.
You see, by having sex with Jay, Hugh has passed on a curse. A ghostly apparition will now slowly walk towards her forever, and if it reaches her she’ll die a gruesome death.
This figure takes on different forms every time Jay sees it, so it won’t be immediately clear if it’s the ghost or not. The only way she can tell is by checking to see if anyone else can see it: it’s only visible to her and anyone else who had the curse.
Jay is therefore left with two choices: either spend the rest of her life staying one step ahead of the ghost – it’s walking towards her but it’s only ever walking, so driving somewhere far away buys her time – or pass on the curse to someone else by sleeping with them.
Here’s a final twist, though: if Jay does decide to ‘lay’ a trap and give someone else the curse, she still has to stay alert. If the ghost kills its new victim, it works back down the chain, meaning Jay will once again be the target.
Can Jay find it inside her to sleep with someone else and ensure they’re capable of also passing the curse on, or will she try to take the ghost head-on and end the curse for good? Well, that would be telling. And no, I won’t let you twist my arm.
I love how It Follows turns two standard horror film clichés on their heads. For once we have a ‘final girl’ who doesn’t keep stumbling and falling every time the lumbering killer slowly shuffles towards her.
Despite the clearly vulnerable position Jay finds herself in, and despite the fact that her role means she is literally running away from something for almost the entire movie, she still shows an inner strength that’s refreshing to see in a slasher: very rarely is she running around screaming helplessly in her undies.
I also love the idea that this is a slasher film in which having sex will save you. The slasher rulebook makes it clear in no uncertain terms that anyone who has sex in a film will likely find their lungs on a machete kebab long before the credits roll, but here the only way to survive is to get in amongst it.
I can’t remember a film successfully going down this route since Cherry Falls, the ’90s slasher in which a murderer was going round killing virgins, leading to the local teens setting up a sort of sex prom to ensure everyone could shag off their bullseye.
It’s a clever idea, then, but It Follows is also a beautiful film to look at. It runs at a deliberately slow pace, giving us time to soak in the beautiful photography of both the idyllic suburban street Jay lives in, and the dilapidated areas of Detroit she and her friends explore later in the film.
Supporting this is a striking minimalist soundtrack by electronic musician Disasterpeace, starting off with lovely chiptune style ambience and eventually hitting us with an amazingly filthy horror theme that gets you properly pumped for the final confrontation (it’s no surprise that it’s brought back for the end credits).
The best compliment I can give It Follows is that, in my opinion, it’s the closest a film has ever come to matching the vibe of John Carpenter’s original Halloween.
It’s the way it looks beautiful despite its clearly low budget, the simplistic yet effective soundtrack, the mysterious killer and the unconventional female lead who’s clearly scared but also not willing to go down without a fight.
But most of all it’s the way it has you constantly scanning the background of every scene, hoping (while also not hoping) to spot evil in the distance.
Much like Halloween had occasions where you’d briefly see the white of Michael Myers’ mask hiding in the darkness outside, It Follows pulls a similar trick by occasionally putting someone way off in the distance, walking towards Jay and getting closer as the scene continues.
Sometimes it’s the ghost, sometimes it’s a red herring. But in a way this almost isn’t important: the trick is that it puts you in Jay’s frame of mind by constantly keeping an eye out everywhere for any sign that ‘It’ may be near.
This idea is even taken a little further at times, with a few simple scenes – such as the one in which Jay and a friend go to a school’s reception desk to enquire about someone – shot with the camera constantly turning round, doing two full 360 sweeps of the room by the time the scene ends. Even while Jay’s busy, we’re doing the looking out for her.
It’s been suggested by the filmmakers that should It Follows be successful enough there may be a sequel or prequel explaining more about what ‘It’ is and why it takes numerous forms.
Part of me hopes this won’t happen: I love how ambiguous and mysterious this killer is and filling in some of the blanks may retrospectively reduce some of the impact.
As it stands right now though, It Follows is a magnificent horror film and one that I look forward to watching over and over again. Its slightly slow, dreamy pace may not be for everyone but if you’re the sort of person who’s over jump scares and prefers more psychological stuff you’ll love this.
It Follows’s rating earns it a place in the hallowed That Was A Bit Mental Hall Of Fame. Click here to see what else made the grade.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
In the UK, It Follows hits Blu-ray and DVD this Monday. In the US, it’s coming to Blu-ray and DVD on 14 July. Alternatively, if you’re more of a streamer, you can buy it through Amazon Instant Video or Blinkbox.
SHOW ME THE TRAILER:
5 thoughts on “It Follows (2014) review”
Absolutely loved this, saw it twice “on the internet” and just bought the Blu-ray today. My favourite movie of the year.
I like your analysis of Jay: “the unconventional female lead who’s clearly scared but also not willing to go down without a fight.”
That’s also a great insight how the director makes us keep “an eye out everywhere.” In the beach scene, we notice “It” before the characters do, and it adds to the dramatic impact.
btw; I was reading your review of Killers from Space (1954), and I think that is the movie they were watching in It Follows.
I wrote a short essay (550 words) on It Follows called “The Dangers of Casual Sex.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/it-follows-2014/