Horror is a tricky genre. Just about everything has been done… to death. Found footage. Haunted houses. Ghost stories. Demons. The self-aware. Comedy-horror. Been there, done that–again, and again.
So it’s welcome relief when something new comes along. As is the case with It Follows, something fresh, a small film that brings to life an original (and invisible) concept, and spooks us to perfection.
Director and writer David Robert Mitchell manages to blaze a new trail with this 2014 gem, and, yet, at the same time, pay homage to the masters that preceded him. Most notably: John Carpenter.
Like Halloween, It Follows takes place in suburbia; white-picket fences and tree-lined streets merely a comfort inducing illusion. Though unlike that 1980 classic, the formidable force here is not a Bogey man, nor a lunatic, or adult seeking revenge for a childhood rebuke. Rather, here it’s largely about what’s unseen. And to reveal more would be possibly to give away this film’s nifty little trick. Some online suggest that it’s a killer STD transferred from one sexual encounter to the next. Well, not quite.
Especially noteworthy with It Follows is its sense of style and atmosphere. There are plenty of both on display. Often the camera moves stealthily across a lawn, or into a home much like Carpenter’s did. A synthesizer heavy score accentuate the sense of hopeless dread. Oh, to be a teen in small town America. The horror!
In one scene, lead Maika Monroe–a shoe-in for Chloe Sevigny and our would-be Jamie Lee Curtis–sits in class, her mind drifting. Across the yard, a mysterious figure approaches. Tension builds magnificently; just as Carpenter did brilliantly some thirty odd years earlier.
Homages aside, Mitchell exudes remarkable confidence. Taken at surface level, it’s beautiful to watch. The gore factor is, thankfully, dialed down, making way instead for moody set pieces, and gorgeous cinematography. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll discover much more on offer: a possible indictment of what it is to be a teen living in today’s hyper-sexualized society. Those expecting quick kills, throwaway jump scares, and gratuitous nudity will surely be disappointed. A layer of psychosis here ensures that this is not merely a rote slasher fest.
A good test of a horror classic is if it can stand up to repeat viewings. It Follows does. I’m looking forward to see what Mitchell does next with his young career.
Just when you think the horror genre has dead-ended (I often prefer to watch assured quality like Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining or Psycho, then take a chance on much of the modern, generic fare), comes along a film like It Follows, not to mention a batch of recent entries, that are intelligently reviving what it means to scare a 21st century audience. Under the Skin. The Babadook. Black Swan. Let the Right One In. Starry Eyes. And David Robert Mitchell’s near masterpiece of a spookfest. All proof points that horror in 2015 is as much about the mind than it is about a generic stalker.