It Follows (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★
After sleeping with Hugh (Jake Weary), Jay (Maika Monroe) is informed that he had passed something onto her—a sort of curse—and she must remember a few things if she wants to live. First, a way to get rid of it is to have sex with another person. Second, the entity that will come to kill her is able take on the form of a person she knows or a complete stranger—dead or alive. Third, she must never be in a room with only one way to get in—because it means there is only one way to get out. If the person she slept with died for whatever reason, this thing would come back for her and so she must always look over her shoulder for the rest of her life.
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, “It Follows” is one of the more stylish independent horror pictures I have seen in years. It is not particularly scary but it is undeniably creepy. It is a bona fide scary movie not because it offers plenty of jump scares but because the protagonist is constantly experiencing an impending sense of doom. I enjoyed that I was not always sure whether she would ever make it through the end because she is so ordinary.
One of the correct decisions the writer-director makes is not having to explain the source of his entity or its background. It just is; we are given a certain reality and we observe how a group of friends deals with it. There are no flashbacks. No dream sequences. There is only forward momentum. Because this entity can be anybody, we are engaged. We notice the extras in the background. Is the “person” alone? Is “he” or “she” walking slowly toward Jay? Is the suspected entity able to speak? Can anybody else see it other than our main character?
The picture has a unique universe in that the characters dress as if they were living in the ‘70s or ‘80s, but their style of speaking and some technology point to modern times. It is without a doubt a visually-driven work. There is always something to look at, something to appreciate. In many standard horror flicks, it is mainly about the blood, guts, nudity, and booming score. Here, it is silent when it counts. There is minimal gore.
Mitchell is obviously influenced by Stanley Kubrick. For instance, intense close-ups are employed at times and almost always coupled with a shrill score—as if nails are being hammered directly into our skulls. There is drop of John Carpenter in this work, too. Notice the careful control of the camera as it scans the suburban milieu.
Those who have seen plenty of horror movies are able to tell right away that this project is from no ordinary director who simply wants to make a cheap horror picture with the hopes of reaching the number one spot in the box office. There is thought put into the decisions and so when Jay and the entity come within a hundred feet of one another, we hold our breath a little longer.
“It Follows” does not have a strong ending. While I understood what it was going for, mainly to communicate that this thing—whatever it is—cannot easily be defeated, something about it does not feel right. When the screen faded to black, I did not feel exhilaration—as I would have after sitting through something truly great. For a split-second I thought, “That can’t be how this story ends.” Indeed, it is the way it is. As a whole, however, patient viewers will find it highly watchable and it does impress in parts.