The first three months of the year produce a lot of forgettable films. But every year there’s a film that catches your attention and reminds you why you love sitting in dark theaters two hours twice a week.
This year that film is It Follows. No, it’s not a movie about Pennywise the Clown following people around – although that would’ve been almost as terrifying.
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows is a thrilling horror story about Jay (The Guest’s Maika Monroe) being following by an unknown evil force. No matter where you are, the evil is walking towards you. Well, let’s take a few steps back…
The film opens with a young girl running from house to house like as if she’s being chased by something. Later we see the young woman at the beach sitting on the shore with her car’s headlights shining on her. That seems bizarre, but not as bizarre as what happens next – the morning comes and she’s dead. She’s dead-dead. Her body is contorted and her leg is snapped in half like she was in a bad Cirque du Soleil accident.
Then we meet the film’s lead character Jay who is on a movie date with Hugh (Jake Weary). When Hugh points to a woman who Jay can’t see, he rushes them both out of the theater. Later on Hugh and Jay have sex in the car (never have sex in scary movie). While Jay is lying across the backseat talking, Hugh puts a towel with chloroform across her face. Jay wakes up in an abandoned building, tied to a wheel chair. That’s where Hugh explains to Jay, and the audience, what exactly is happening.
Hugh tells her, “ This thing….it’s going to follow you. Somebody gave it to me, and I passed it to you back in the car. It can look like someone you know, or it can be a stranger in the crowd…..whatever helps it get close to you. But there’s only one of it”. Hugh can see “It” coming in the distance and wheels Jay to the edge of the building so she can see. You see a woman in a nightgown slowly walking towards them. She’s taking slow deliberate strides in a zombie like trance, but she never stops. Hugh gives Jay a few more survival tips. He tells her to always be in a room with two exits, the thing is slow but not dumb, she should pass it to someone immediately, and if she dies, it will come after him.
After an incident at school and her house, Jay realizes the people walking towards her are not a figment of her imagination and that Hugh isn’t crazy. Jay and her friends band together to try to outlast whatever it is that’s following her any way they can.
If you think a film about people walking slowly only seems scary of those people are zombies, you’d be wrong. The scare in It Follows isn’t in the “It” that’s following. The real scare is the idea that something is coming for you and there’s nothing . Nothing! All you can do to stop it but try to outrun it, and outlast it, and out think it, but you can’t stop it. What happens when you get tired of running? What happens when you let your guard down? How can you sleep? Standing still is the most dangerous thing you can do.
It’s unreal how good Maika Monroe is. Jay goes through a serious emotional roller coaster and Maika has the skills to take audiences on the ride along with her. She’s really staking a claim as one of Hollywood’s rising stars. She may get overlooked because she’ only shined in genre films, but I have no doubt she’ll be great no matter what film she’s in.
It Follows does something that a lot of horror films don’t do well. The film never explains what exactly “It” is. Not only is it not important to get an explanation, the film thrives on the idea that nobody knows exactly what it is or how/why this is happening. When Jay and her crew get together, they never try to figure out what it is. There’s no scene with them on the internet looking up ghost stories or meeting with priest. They’re just a bunch of scared kids trying to survive.
Even with very little jump scares, the film lives off its fantastic score. It’s almost becomes its own character. It’s the same recipe that worked for You’re Next and The Guest – simple story, well written, well acted, and an amazing score. I’m hoping more horror films adopt this formula.
Is It Follows a metaphor for teen sex and STDs? Probably. Is it a film about bad decisions and how you can’t run away from your past? Maybe. Is it a movie that should be shown in high school sex education classes? I’d sign a petition for that. I know one thing for sure, It Follows is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. It’s not packed with cheap scares, gore, or CGI spirits. It’s a creepy story that’s designed to make you look over shoulders long after you’ve watched it. And maybe think twice about the people you sleep with.