After a sexual encounter with her boyfriend, Jay is told she will be followed by something. She won’t know what it is or what it looks like, but she’ll know it’s there and it will try to kill her. In short, that is the synopsis of It Follows and that’s all you need to know. In fact, stop reading this review and just go and watch the damn thing, because it’s brilliant.
It Follows is a marvel for horror fans, because it embodies everything you could ever desire or demand from the genre. An interesting premise? Check. Unpredictability? Check. Frights? Double check. It’s downright frightening in parts and I mean it, it will make your hands clammy and you’ll forget to breathe. There aren’t any cheap jump scares for miles and, instead, It Follows runs on intense dread and ominous build-ups where you’re left waiting for something to happen or someone to appear from around a corner. It’s genuinely quite terrifying and that can’t be stressed enough. The idea of something that can take any form following you, no matter how far you run, is a living nightmare.
Luckily, It Follows brings this nightmare to the screen in a marvellous fashion. Taking a lot of inspiration from much-loved horror classics from the 1980s, especially A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, the use of synth-heavy and electronic music is a real throwback to the films of John Carpenter. It works a treat and the film goes from beautifully melodic to full-on aggressive in no time. This perfectly mirrors the on-screen events where everything is calm, albeit ominously, and then suddenly there’s a THING at the door and it’s not pleasant. It Follows is also wonderful to look at. It’s beautifully shot with plenty of attention to detail that will, again, please fans of 80’s horror; long-takes and wide-angled shots are reminiscent of classic scary movies. Furthering It Follows’ homage to horror from the past is its perfect portrayal of the slow-walking threat. Not much is more menacing than George A. Romero’s dawdling dead or Michael Myers’ horrifying skill of catching up with the fastest runner, and It Follows executes this exceptionally. We’ve seen enough brisk killers and spooky ghosts in modern horror films and It Follows becomes a suitable throwback to horrors from the past.
Another brilliant aspect of It Follows is its elusive setting. It isn’t clear whether the film is set in the past, present or future and so leaves much to the imagination. There is plenty to unpick as the film draws to a close, from questioning whether the characters made the right choices or discussing what the film is truly warning you about. On the one hand, it works perfectly as a teen cautionary chiller about the dangers of unprotected sex, but it could also be read simply as a symbol for the struggles facing adolescents as they grow up. The teenage characters are an interesting bunch, each embodying something typically associated with that age group; from compulsive eating to unrequited love. They are exaggerated stereotypes of the film teenager, becoming perfect products of a postmodern age. David Robert Mitchell has constructed something that wonderfully mimics today’s state of film; everything feeling like a copy of a copy and the need for something to pave the way for a whole new era. Horror has certainly needed an upheaval recently, with countless remakes and not-so-brilliant sequels; it’s refreshing to see that original scary storytelling is not dead yet.
Hopefully, It Follows marks a change in the genre and more film-makers will be inspired to follow in its footsteps, creating something original, entertaining and seriously scary.
Words Jessy Williams / @JessyCritical