You know a film has some sort of experiential power when someone has to warn you about it. And I’m not talking about those phony “inspired by a true story” warnings tacked on to the front of movies or even those “may trigger a seizure” labels before 3-D movies. I’m talking about cautionary word of mouth tales that you may hear from a friend or colleague that suggest how their minds were blown by a certain film. For instance, I’ve been warning many people that Whiplash is one of the most intense movies I have ever seen and now I’m going to start telling people that It Follows is one of the most paranoia-filled movies I have ever seen.
It’s strange to me how well It Follows works. Story-wise, the film is pretty much a blend of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street – both of which have been mimicked numerous times over the years. Yet It Follows establishes its own world without heavy exposition and provides its terror without relying on jump scares. It’s definitely a film horror aficionados should have under their belts because, frankly, the hype is real.
The film revolves around Jay (Maika Monroe), who is taken on a date one night by her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary). As the night comes to a close, the two park near an abandon warehouse and engage in sexual intercourse. Afterwards, while Jay is lying in the backseat in a state of euphoria, Hugh comes up from behind her and smothers her with a chloroform-soaked rag. Many moments later, Jay awakens to find herself strapped to a wheelchair inside the warehouse. Hugh, frantically looking around the perimeter, begins to explain to Jay that soon a humanoid entity of no constant appearance will be coming to kill her and the only way to avoid death will be to always keep moving or to have sex with someone in order to pass the curse along. The entity eventually appears, only for Hugh to incapacitate it and take Jay back to her home.
From the opening scene that introduces the film’s uncertain horror to the final shot, there is a stream of perpetual anxiety that never falters. The film is basically an overloaded collection of character reaction shots that build heavily upon a sense of paranoia. What makes it so haunting is that each scene’s coverage usually includes shots that utilize the foreground, middle ground, and background to establish the spacing of the deadly entity from the main characters.
Between the cinematography and editing, It Follows kept me watching with an eager eye. Whereas many horror films tempt you to cover your eyes, It Follows made me want to keep my eyes open the entire time despite knowing the possibility of scares around every corner. I also like how most scenarios in the film are left up to the viewer’s imagination. So many times do horror movies go all out on the guts and the glory that empathy is ultimately blanketed. This film understands its teen characters in a way that acts like a coming-of-age drama and that’s what makes it genuine.
While the obvious metaphor of the film is that death is imminent, the true fright comes from the unexpected appearances of death. After all, sometimes the scariest aspects in life are the things you don’t see coming. Through a confident and strategic visual canvas, a Carpenter-esque synth soundtrack by Disasterpeace, and a cast of fine performances, It Follows is a film that will surely be situated as a modern standout in the horror genre.