It Follows (2015)

Dir. David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto

A slow burning horror film. It Follows successfully blends supernatural horror with early slasher films. Some may be disappointed by the deliberate pace and the lack of surprise. However, the film’s atmosphere is hypnotic, and it will stay with you after you leave the theater. SPOILERS ?

It begins with a teenage girl running for her life through a quiet suburban neighborhood. She is half dressed and improbably wearing red stilettos. Like a virulent outbreak of the clap, It Follows is a cautionary tale of the consequences of premarital sex. After an idyllic first time Janie (Maika Monroe) is drugged and tied to a chair by her beau. He tells her now something is after her, and the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on by having sex with someone else. It Follows, cribs the style of earlier slashers like Friday the 13th and Carpenter’s Halloween. But rather than the faceless enemy, “It” in It Follows takes the form of people known to the victim. A chilling commentary on sexual violence.

Also, unlike those earlier films, it’s more interested in the emotional aftermath and not the body count. Look elsewhere for gory, blood-soaked kills. Janie soon enlists the help of her friends, and the adolescent love triangles become the heart of the film. The teenagers are somewhat interchangeable, but their anxiety and longing is communicated. This is especially true for Paul (Keir Gilchrist) the wannabe savior, desperate to leave the friend zone. The monster in It Follows remains unnamed and ill-defined, perhaps by design. Simply speaking, the loss of innocence is a traumatic and inescapable experience. Because of the film’s emphasis on character rather than jump scares, It Follows stays with you. It does for walking what The Ring did for static on T.V.

Stylistically, It Follows continues the trend of retro-style horror, like The House of the Devil and You’re Next. It has the look, the filter, of an older film. The costuming and settings are older. The camera is steady. It’s only noticeable flair is the slow, searching zoom, which services the story by cultivating paranoia. It even has a synth heavy soundtrack by Rich Vreeland. Despite the old packaging and classical storytelling approach, it’s refreshing. It isn’t an “updates” nor does it try to subvert the genre. Cell phones and e-readers live harmoniously with analog televisions and wood-paneled walls. It Follows successfully fuses old tropes to create a unique film.

Recommend: Yes, BUT…do not go in with the expectation that it will be “the best American horror film in years.”

Availability (US): Wide theatrical release 27 March