There has been a spate of horror remakes in recent years, adding more realistic gore and pointless backstories to films like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. And there have been even more low-budget gore flicks pouring into VOD distributors. They leave my poor heart wanting more.
Thankfully, writer-director David Robert Mitchell has come to my rescue with an atmospheric and thoughtful horror film, It Follows. Director David Robert Mitchell pays homage to the horror greats. Maika Monroe, as Jay, tries to outrun and outwit her supernatural foe, alongside her Scoobies, Keir Gilchrist as Paul, Olivia Luccardi as Yara, Lili Sepe as Kelly, Jake Weary as Jeff, and Daniel Zovatto as Greg, the resident greasy hunk. Float away with me to a land of fear and beauty as I review It Follows (2014)!
- Where does this film take us? It Follows exists in a dreamy, nostalgic time-space. The colours are muted pastel, the score is reminiscent of 70s/80s horror music, there are black and white movies playing on an old TV, but there is also a futuristic e-reader and a lack of slang. It is not past, present, or future. It is timeless.
- How did this film make us feel? The film has many wide shots with long takes, the audience is constantly monitoring the image, looking for the being that haunts the characters. You are never at ease. There are very few cheap scares. By relying on sustained tension, moments of panic and violence are granted even more emotional force. I alternated between feeling tension, fear, and joy. When I left the theatre I was emotionally rattled, and continued to look around myself, through windows, past lights, as I had done while I watched the film. The cinematography was extremely effective.
- What issues does this film tackle? One of the more obvious themes that It Follows tackles is that of sexually transmitted disease. The deadly curse that haunts Jay is passed on after penetrative sex is completed for the man. No homosexual or non-penetrative sex is depicted, so this might be a specifically hetero affliction. The curse plagues the most recent person to have sex with the previously cursed person. I have heard it remarked by some that it can also be interpreted as PTSD from rape or sexual abuse. An unnamed, unseen thing haunting you, something incomprehensible to your loved ones, something that isolates you, that penetrates your every thought, and makes every space you inhabit unsafe. Others interpret it as the threat of adulthood, or mortality. The film’s young adults are hanging out at the end of summer, clinging to one another and their childhood pastimes of floating in pools and sleepovers. Parents are obscured or appear as violent apparitions, we are firmly in a world of youth and vulnerability. But, the threat of adulthood is forever looming, forever threatening to tear the kids apart, and all they can do is run and cling to one another. Adulthood slowly creeps up on everyone, no matter how fast you run, how far you drive, or how many people you sleep with.
- Was it fun? Oh man, this film was so fun. It is beautiful, well-paced, and is reminiscent of some of my favourite horror films including Cat People (1942), Halloween (1978), with a little bit of a Buffy (1997) or Scooby Doo (1969) mixed in for good measure. The nostalgia is not only in the production design and sound design, it’s in every element. I get the warm and fuzzies from the Cat People influenced pool confrontation as much as I get it from thinking about lazy summer days.
- Was it transformative? The film was not transformative, it did not change my worldview, but it does make me hopeful that a more thoughtful indie horror trend will emerge. Enough hack ‘em, slash ‘ems! Keep me guessing! Keep me fearful!
It Follows is a horror pleasure and I really recommend it. Pair it with The Shining (1980) to maintain that atmosphere and suspense.