Published on April 14th, 2015 | by Dan Nicholls0
It Follows has some leaps in logic that one may have to ignore here and there, but it’s still an effective, excellent little horror film.
It Follows has arguably been the indie sensation of the year (so far). A lot has been said about the film in the past few weeks, notably in regard to its VOD release plan and its alteration to allow for a wider theatrical window. Its artistic merits deserve to be discussed (the “wheelchair shot” is fantastic), but too much of the conversation surrounding the film has amounted to an unhealthy level of hyperbole, in my opinion. The movie is very chilling, but the film loses its steam slightly in a handful of moments that feel a little bit too much like latter-day Jason Voorhees-meets-Scooby-Doo campiness. Indeed, I was scared by It Follows, but it did not terrify me, chill me to my bones, or haunt my subconscious the way I was expecting it to. I slept well after seeing the movie, but those 100 minutes in the theater were tense enough that I let out a massive exhale when it was all over.
Jay, played by Maika Monroe, is a high school senior who sleeps with the wrong guy, and is then menacingly followed by supernatural forces that steadily walk towards her in human form. They’re like slow-moving ghost sex zombies, and we’re not exactly sure 100% of the time what they’ll do once they catch you, but you know it’s not going to be good. All Jay can do is run, and her attempts to stop the unseen forces prove futile. It’s a commendable feat that the filmmakers are able to fill the entire movie’s running time with solid entertainment from a relatively simple concept, one whose allegorical qualities rest plainly on the surface. But through the pacing, acting, and incredible use of music, the film doesn’t relent; it ratchets the tension to its breaking point, and then leaves it at that level until the credits roll.
What director David Robert Mitchell understands is that horror, like comedy, sometimes lives best in a wide frame. There are plenty of beautifully composed long shots throughout the film and coupled with the pulsating score, the effect is at times extremely unsettling. But if the film doesn’t cement itself as a new classic, it won’t be for lack of style or ambition. If anything, the characters could’ve used a bit more work beyond the stereotypical archetypes that are presented (the geek who longs for the heart of the lead girl, the bad boy jock, etc). Last year’s surprise indie suspense thriller The Guest, for example, had many of the same technical merits as It Follows but its lead character (and the actor playing him) brought a level of unpredictability to the proceedings that jolted every scene with electricity. Maika Monroe, as the film’s protagonist, also co-starred in The Guest and has an ‘it’ factor that keeps your eyes glued to her. If she gets better roles that complement her talent, she could easily become the next emerging star to watch out for.
As much as one would want to champion an indie darling, my fear is that the film will spawn sequels — or, God forbid, prequels — if it’s widely accepted by the masses, or even if it’s just profitable enough that the forces at play behind the scenes want to push for another cash win. As is the case with most movies, a sequel isn’t necessary here. It Follows is able to stand on its own two feet as a remarkably concise allegory of sexually transmitted diseases, and it should be left as it is while the filmmakers explore other themes. I’d love to see a string of horror films in the same vein as It Follows, but I don’t necessarily need the exact formula repeated. That the film is finding an audience beyond the art house circuit is a good thing and proves, like the recent You’re Next did, that mainstream audiences will buy into the most minimalist of setups if the concept is catchy enough. It Follows is leaps and bounds scarier than You’re Next, but both share similar mumblecore DNA that doesn’t usually get a chance to open wide at the multiplex.
It Follows is a very good horror movie, and its unnerving indie style amounts to a unique experience, where blood and gore and spectacle rarely make an appearance. I think one’s appreciation of the film will be bolstered by lowered expectations, as pre-release hype set the bar pretty high for me. Even if it isn’t the great white hope for horror cinema as many were claiming/hoping it would be, it’s still a pulse-pounding treat for fans of smaller-scale scary movies.