New Review: It Follows (2015)
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Jake Weary, Daniel Zavatto, Lili Sepe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Sometimes it's the simplest techniques that prove to be the most effective. It Follows is a very scary horror thriller that doesn't rely on special-effects, cheap jump scares, musical stings, buckets of gore (although there is a very gruesome image in the first five minutes of the movie), and false alarms to create its tension filled atmosphere. Instead, its approach is far more subtle, sometimes eliciting moments of bone-chilling terror simply by having someone in the background of a shot walk slowly toward characters in the foreground. If you don't think that sounds very frightening, just wait until you see how it's used here.
The movie begins with a haunting and menacing opening sequence. On a quiet suburban neighborhood, a young girl runs out of her house and down the street. She stops, and looks in horror at something (we're not allowed to see what) that lurks just outside of the frame. She runs back inside her house, grabs the keys, and drives off like a bat out of hell. Later that evening, she sits on the beach, hopeless and alone. She calls up her father, and gives him what we assume is a farewell message over the phone (and it's not a spoiler to say that it is).
The movie then introduces us to Jay (Maika Monroe, who was previously seen in last year's terrific The Guest), an innocent community college student who's recently started dating a guy calling himself Hugh (Jake Weary). He seems like a nice enough guy, although their date at a local movie theater ends rather abruptly after he freaks out when he claims to see a woman in a yellow dress that Jay can't see. After having sex in the back of his car, Hugh chloroforms Jay, ties her to a chair, and explains to her that something is going to be following her now. "Somebody passed this thing to me," he tells her. "And now I've passed it to you."
The rules involving the creature make it impossible to deal with. It can take the guise of someone the victim knows, or a stranger in the crowd; whatever it can to get close enough. No one can see it save the person it's targeting (or those who were its target until they passed it on to someone else). If it ever starts chasing you, never hide in a room that has only one exit, and more importantly, never let it touch you. There's no explanation for what the creature wants or why it's targeting students who have sex, and that makes it all the more frightening. After all, how can you reason with something that has no reason behind its madness?
Because Jay is the only one who can see the creature, her friends -- Greg (Daniel Zavatto), the hunk across the street; Jay's kid sister Kelly (Lili Sepe); Paul (Keir Gilchrist), a geeky fellow who has an obvious crush on Jay; and good buddy Yara (Olivia Luccardi) -- are supportive but have difficulty believing her at first. Greg teaches her how to use a gun, although once Jay finally uses the weapon on It, it doesn't appear to do much damage. The only way to get the creature off your back is by giving it to someone else by having sex with them, although that would mean endangering another human being (amusingly enough, Greg and Paul are just a little too eager to assist her there, in spite of the risks), and if the creature kills the person you gave it to, well then you're in trouble again.
How can you escape a creature like that? Is it even possible? That depends on what you think the title creature is. There's a scene early in the movie where Hugh and Jay play a game where the other person has to guess which person in the crowd the other person would want to trade places with. Hugh picks a young boy, because the child doesn't have nearly as many worries at that age. With that scene in mind, It Follows can be read as a parable about the loss of innocence to experience.
Director David Robert Mitchell expresses the theme visually (in the earlier scenes, Jay floats around in her swimming pool with not a care in the world, and toward the end of the movie, her pool has been drained empty and torn down), but mostly it's the nature of the creature itself that expresses it the best. No matter where or how far Jay runs, the It creature always seems to catch up with her. There is no getting rid of it for good, and if the movie's ambiguous final scene is any indication, there's no going back to "the way things were." There's always going to be the fear of It lurking close behind.
It Follows is the second feature length movie directed by Mitchell, whose first film (The Myth of the American Sleepover) is one that I haven't seen, but plan to soon enough. With this film, Mitchell creates one of the most visually stunning horror movies of recent memory. The wide-screen cinematography by Mike Gioulakis is hypnotically beautiful, and the film's retro-80s score by Disasterpiece adds considerably to the film's dread filled atmosphere. The production design by Michael Perry is especially curious. While there are cellphones and internet in use here, the movie looks and feels like something that was made in the 80s.
To top it all off, the movie is creepy as hell. It Follows is proof that you don't need big special-effects and gory kills to create thrills; sometimes, you just need to know where to put the camera. Perhaps the most unsettling scene in the film involves an old woman in a hospital gown stalking Jay at her community college. That's it. There's no elaborate make-up effects or gruesome payoff. It's simply the sight of a zombified old woman walking after Jay, and just the very thought of that scene has me contemplating turning on a night light for bed.
It Follows has a couple of narrative gaffes (most of them come during the climax, set inside an abandoned pool house), but the movie itself is so good that I don't want to waste my time writing about them. Some have compared the movie's premise to that of 2002's wildly overrated The Ring (instead of watching a video tape, you have to have sex), although It Follows is a far, far, far better movie in practically every way. What we have here is a scary, thoughtful, and superbly crafted horror movie, carried by some very strong performances, including another stellar performance from young Maika Monroe (who's slowly becoming one of my favorite young actresses).
The late great Roger Ebert once coined the phrase "Bruised Forearm Movie," and they were in reference to films that would have you and your date grabbing each others arms in a vice like grip because of the excitement on screen. He mainly used that phrase when writing about action movies he loved, but it's something that can be used to accurately describe It Follows.
Rated R for very little violence (one death is especially graphic), some sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity
Final Grade: *** ½ (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other Thoughts on It Follows (2015)! :D
- Sundance Film Review: It Follows | Consequence of Sound
A terrifying tribute to horror's past that stands on its own.
- David Robert Mitchell pays tribute to John Carpenter with It Follows | Movie Review | Chicago Reader
A slow-moving demon creeps inexorably toward its victims in this low-budget horror movie.
- Reelviews Movie Reviews
- It Follows | LA Weekly
Forget Dracula and Freddy Krueger. In writer-director David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, the killer is as generic as death, the universal murderer. The...
- Film Freak Central - Fantastic Fest '14: It Follows
****/**** starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary written and directed by David Robert Mitchell by Walter Chaw For me, David Robert Mitchell's The Myth of the American Sleepover occupies a space in recent nostalgia films alo