Synopsis: For 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), the fall should be about school, boys and weekends at the lake. Yet after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter she suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions; she can’t shake the sensation that someone, or something, is following her. As the threat closes in, Jay and her friends must somehow escape the horrors that are only a few steps behind.
Release Date: March 13, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Sex has always been a dangerous thing in horror movies. It’s been an unwritten rule since the golden age of the slasher that sex equals death, and modern movies like Teeth and Contracted have raised the stakes by finding creative ways for impure teenagers to die. Following the same tradition, It Follows is enough to make any red-blooded young person think twice about indulging in carnal pleasures.
It Follows stars Maika Monroe (The Guest) as Jay Height, a young girl who has just been swept off of her feet by a new boyfriend named Hugh (Jake Weary from Zombeavers). Jay notices that Hugh acts a little strange around other people, but decides to have sex with him anyway. After they do it, Hugh explains to Jay that, by sleeping with her, he has passed a curse onto her that will cause her to be followed by an entity that can take the form of anyone at any time, can be seen only by her, and will kill her if it catches her. The only way to stop the entity is to pass the curse onto another person by having sex with them. Sure enough, Jay starts to see strange people following her around. Not wanting to saddle another person with the curse, Jay enlists the help of her sister, Kelly (Spork‘s Lili Sepe), her friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist from It’s Kind of a Funny Story) and Yara (Like Sunday, Like Rain‘s Olivia Luccardi), and the boy-next door Greg (Beneath‘s Daniel Zovatto) to help her figure out another way to save herself before it’s too late.
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover), It Follows is destined to find its way onto many top-ten lists for this year. It’s a fun throwback to eighties horror that doesn’t rely on excessive gore or cheap jump scares to be effective. Mitchell manages to make a universally appealing movie that is original and inventive without being artsy or pretentious. There’s a certain timelessness and generality to the movie – one can tell that it’s set in Detroit because of the street names, and it appears to occur during the fall because there’s a Halloween vibe in the air, but all of the cars look to be old clunkers from the seventies or eighties (except for a single Prius), and Yara has a weird makeup compact-shaped Kindle device that could only exist in the new millennium. This ambiguity works in the film’s favor, letting the viewer know that this could happen at any time in anyplace to anyone, and probably has been happening for decades.
One of the aspects of It Follows that makes it feel like an eighties movie is the all-for-one attitude of Jay and her friends. Even when it appears that their own personal safety could be at risk, Jay’s friends stick with her and want to help her – both Paul and Greg even offer to have sex with her to remove the curse (although we all see through those ulterior motives, right?). These are thick-as-thieves friends that remind the viewer of the relationships in classic kid movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me. Add in the fact that the parents (and adults in general) are barely around in the film, and the teenage characters in It Follows take on a cool retro vibe.
Like the slasher movies of the eighties, It Follows seems to have a conservative political metaphor to it, albeit a slightly different one from those within movies like Friday the 13th and Halloween. What It Follows seems to be saying to teenagers is that sexual decisions are something that will (excuse the pun) follow you around for the rest of your life if you happen to gain a bad reputation. This message gets a little convoluted when the film says that the solution to the problem is more sex, but hey – it’s a movie, and at least it’s not trying to say having sex is like having a spear thrust through your throat. The abstinence stance of the movie is just one more reason that It Follows reminds its audience of the good old days of horror.
Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (John Dies at the End) uses a number of creative camera tricks to give It Follows its distinct photographic style. The look of the movie is similar to that of the films of Stanley Kubrick or Wes Anderson, with most of the shots lined up symmetrically and loaded with vibrant color. Gioulakis goes to great lengths to build suspense through his visuals, using lots of long, slow takes that let the action unfold deliberately, keeping the approaching “followers” out of focus until just the right moment in an attempt to draw the viewer into the scene. In addition to the long one-take shots, It Follows uses plenty of camera motion in an almost Paranormal Activity-kind of way, with things that the audience should be looking at being purposely shoved out of frame only to appear again when the camera spins in that direction. The smooth whipping pans get a little disorienting at times, but that’s the point of them. It Follows is a tense movie, and much of that tension is because of Mike Gioulakis’ innovative photography.
After a cursory listen to the music in It Follows, it should come as no surprise that it was written and produced by a video game music composer, in this case Rich Vreeland, better known in the gaming world as Disasterpeace. Vreeland’s score almost makes the viewer feel as if they are in a video game, with synth driven rock music driving many scenes and vintage moog lines spookily winding their way through others. Like many elements of It Follows, the score has a cool retro-eighties sound to it, and it’s perfect that way.
Although there are a handful of good jump scares, what really makes It Follows scary is the waiting. The followers are only visible to Jay and the audience, so when one of them is coming up behind Jay and none of her friends can warn her, the viewer just wants to reach into the movie and pull her out of harm’s way. When the camera shows a big anonymous group of people, the audience is left to wonder which (if any) of them is a follower, and when they will reveal themselves as such. The best part – and it truly is the most important – is that sometimes there is nothing to be afraid of, but the viewer still gets tense and uneasy because of the waiting. That’s how masterfully David Robert Mitchell is able to build up his suspense; even the false alarms are terrifying. Of course, the film does resort to jump scares in a few places, but they’re not cheap – there’s a reason to scream, and it’s not because there’s a hissing cat in the scene. There is very little gore in It Follows, and that’s kind of refreshing; it doesn’t need it. All It Follows needs is the audience’s imagination to make it one of the scariest movies of the year.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): David Robert Mitchell
- Producer(s): Rebecca GreenDavid KaplanErik RommesmoLaura D. Smith
- Screenwriter(s): David Robert Mitchell
- Cast: Maika MonroeLili SepeKeir Gilchrist Olivia LuccardiDaniel ZovattoJake Weary
- Editor(s): Julio Perez IV
- Cinematographer: Mike Gioulakis
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Kimberly Leitz-McCauley
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Rich Vreeland
- Music Performed By: Disasterpeace
- Country Of Origin: USA