It Follows Movie Review
Written by Simret Cheema-Innis
Released by Icon Film Distribution
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell
2014, 100 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
UK theatrical release on 27th February 2015
Maika Monroe as Jay
Olivia Luccardi as Yara
Lili Sepe as Kelly
Bailey Spry as Annie
It Follows comes from The Myth of the American Sleepover director David Robert Mitchell. It's the second feature film from a writer/director who really knows how to conjure terror against the backdrop of a peaceful American suburb.
The opening scene reveals a girl running from a house, down the street and around in a circle before ending up on a beach in complete turmoil. The next scene reveals her dead body, contorted and disfigured. It's not overly dramatised. What you see is what you get, succinct shots which in turn set the karma for the rest of the film's pace and style resulting in a dreamy, morose journey with a horrific story.
19-year old Jay and her friends lull around casually in their suburban lifestyle. They spend their time watching movies, swimming in pools and generally hanging out. Here Mitchell really hones in on the American teenage environment, something he's familiar with doing, as seen in The Myth of the American Sleepover. You have a willowy town where teenagers are at the height of puberty and sexual exploration, a picture perfect all-American teen life which is painted so clearly.
Jay dates Hugh, a guy from outside of town, and the red-blooded teenagers get down to business in no time as they become intimate with each other. After the deed is done, Hugh discloses that he's passed on a virus but it's not a typical STD. The virus has the ability to manifest itself in ghost/zombie-like apparitions that haunt you. Hugh explains that in order to get rid of the zombie-ghosts, he's had to pass it on. Jay is understandably devastated, people in the neighbourhood think she's been attacked, but she can't tell anyone the truth as nobody would believe her.
Creepy figures soon start to appear and haunt Jay. If caught she will die and the virus will go back to Hugh, not that she should care about him. Her friend's don't believe her at first until they witness a paranormal event in which one of the ghosts tries to attack her and the others. Although they can't see the entity, they know it's not make-believe and so the battle to defeat the ghosts and fight for Jay's survival begins. But in all of this, there's only one way to get rid of it: pass it on.
It Follows feels like an original film with a well-thought out story, shot as if it were an homage to John Carpenter's Halloween movies. Mitchell has taken inspiration from Halloween, even using late summer and autumnal tones to expose character lifestyle and demonstrate how the supernatural can occur in the normalness of everyday life. The film score is also very similar to John Carpenter's main Halloween theme, where a synthesiser has been used to create simple classical music.
There are drawn out travel scenes. One particular car journey shows the teenagers venturing out of their homey neighbourhood into another town. Here derelict buildings can be seen languishing in their ugliness as the teens gawk in a mixture of shock and wonder. This is symbolic for their realisation of a world much bigger than they could ever imagine and away from their cosy porches.
Another movie trademark is the 360 degree camera where slow coursing movement operated twice over in one scene make for immersive viewing, and although you'd expect zombies or ghosts to appear they don't. This is exactly what It Follows is all about, revealing the terror in areas where creatures or ghosts blend in, creating suspense through the subtle movements and stances of zombie-ghosts; Mitchell proves that less really is more. There hasn't been a film since Rabid Grannies where I've been terrified of an old woman or man calmly walking or even standing in a street. This film retains an ominous beauty through the power of suggestion which makes It Follows the scariest film I've seen this year.
Besides the horror masked in teenage innocence and self-discovery, the message for practicing safe sex couldn't be clearer. This is the kind of film that should be shown in sex education class. At first hand, it's a young persons world where parents hardly exist and are cleverly avoided. They're mentioned but never seen.
When you see a film like It Follows, there's a sudden realisation and faith that horror film hasn't been lost to misogyny, cheap thrills and the franchise movie. Great horror writing and story will leave you with that unsettling feeling in your gut, and in this case repulsed by the thought of having sex again.