I’ve always loved horror movies – from the cerebral films like The Sixth Sense and The Others, to the gory meaningless flicks like Friday the Thirteenth and A Nightmare on Elm Street, to monster movies, to the parodies, and the silly ones. Even with my love for these movies, though, most of them feel like they’ve been done… like I’ve seen them before. They feel like they’re all variations on the same formula and, although some are done better and more entertainingly than others, it’s rare when something comes along that is truly new and original and even rarer when it’s actually entertaining.
It Follows is precisely one of those rare, original and entertaining movies. It takes a simple concept, livens it up with some genuinely creepy and tense sequences, and lays on an analogy that is as sly as it is subtle.
After a hot and heavy session of car sex, a teenager named Jay (Maika Monroe) is informed by her boyfriend that he has passed on something to her… she will now be followed by something that can take on the form of anyone. It walks slowly, but it never stops and, if it kills her, it will go after him and everyone who it was passed on to previously.
Soon, Jay is stalked by this walking menace that finds her no matter where she goes. It can be outrun, but it is relentless and it never stops.
It’s also creepy… very very creepy.
While I know that It Follows won’t be for everyone… some finding it too much of a throwback while others will be put off by what I’m sure they will call an “anticlimax,” I can’t help but respect and admire this movie for what it does and, more importantly, what it doesn’t do.
As for what it does, it succeeds in creating an atmosphere that is dripping with dread and sequences that, although slow, are methodical, calculating and suspenseful.
It succeeds in creating characters who you honestly want to see make it through the movie in one piece. These are teenagers that actually look like teenagers and not Calvin Kline models – they are dorky, gangly, and even the “cute” ones are awkward looking. What’s more, they actually act like teenagers as well. Their solutions aren’t always the best, their motivations are peppered with selfishness and they make stupid decisions. However, they care about each other as well. These characters look out for each other and support each other in ways that are actually touching in a way… selfish and creepy in others, but touching none the less.
This realism actually makes the movie that much more suspenseful because you actually want to see them all survive. Usually in horror movies, you find tropes like “the jerky jock” or “the popular witch” who serve themselves up like cannon fodder to the slaughter, but in It Follows, you’re given normal kids acting in normal ways. It works. It works so well.
As for what It Follows doesn’t do, it doesn’t rely on cheap gore, a massive body count, or CGI special effects. The suspense and horror of an unstoppable force are enough to make it memorable and scary. Looking back, I can’t even remember a cheap jump scare that wasn’t organic and real.
Yes, my friends, It Follows is a precious gem. The anti-climax is somewhat of a disappointment as the credits seem to appear out of nowhere, but I understand what the intention was even if I found it a little clumsy. As a metaphor for teenage sex and the dangers that come with it, it’s quite clever and never too heavy handed or preachy. It allows you to make your own suppositions and debate endlessly about it.
It the end, however, it’s an effective and brilliantly done horror movie. From its simple concept to the masterful way it uses a slowly advancing doom and even the neat 80’s throwback score, It Follows will follow you long after you leave the theater.