it follows

It Follows Review: Still Want To Fool Around?

Sex equals death. The idea that young adults having sex in a horror movie being a death sentence is a common and accepted stereotype. It was commonly used in the horrors of the 80’s and 90’s and has continued on, often copied, parodied or mocked. With ‘It Follows,’ director David Robert Mitchell has taken the concept that is often a side note, and formalized it into the basis of it’s own horror film. It is a concept that is new despite being drawn from a long standing idea, and it provides the basis for an attempt at becoming the next great American horror movie. Great American horror is hard to come by these days. There have been some solid entries over the past few years, but I’d argue that The Conjuring is the last classic American horror. Evil Dead disappointed. The Babadook was a remarkably scary film this past year, but that hails from Australia. ‘It Follows’ is perhaps our best hope, but how did it deliver on the promise?

‘It Follows’ wastes no time getting down to business.  The film opens with an intense, wrenching score that is loud and incredibly abrasive, like it’s trying to scratch at your brain.  It contrasts with shots of a nice suburban neighborhood, before a teenage girl begins running around like a mad woman, running away from something that we can’t see.  Her erratic behaviour leads to a shocking conclusion, that without really saying anything, gives us a good foundation for the stakes of the concept it’s going to present, and also the intensity and horror it’s going to pummel us with.  I actually think this was an important scene, showing us the brutual consquences that are possible early, for reasons that I’ll explain later.  All in all, I was hooked, and a little afraid right from the get go here.

From there we get introduced to our leading lady, Jay, played by Maika Monroe.  We also meet her sister Kelly (Lile Sepe), her friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary).  They seem like typical, nice teenagers, and they do a pretty nice job being likable.  Jay is the real star though, and right from the start she gives us a performance that we can hold onto.  It’s not overdone, and she’s immediately likable without being a cartoon.  As soon as the scares set in she’s in top form and her fear seems completely real and I felt like she acted exactly as most people would in that situation.  The film ramps up after she does the dirty with a guy she’s dating, not realizing that she was allowing him to pass on some kind of curse where she will be followed by a strange entity in human form, which simply walks until it gets to her and then disposes of her.  She just has to keep running, or pass it on, via sex, to another.  It’s a simple, but unique concept, that may sound silly, but actually works so well it’s ridiculous.  Monroe brings it to life with her performance too.

The great thing about ‘It Follows’ in terms of the scares is that this concept allows Mitchell to craft some remarkable set pieces.  The thing is, as the general public walks around in the surroundings, you never quite know if one of these people is actually walking towards Jay.  Sometimes the camera acts as Jay, and we start to see someone walking our way.  Other times we see a shot of Jay and also what is around her, and sometimes we can see behind her, as something approaches that she doesn’t see yet.  Add to that the fact that nobody else can see the thing, so unless Jay sees it, it’s going to get to her.  It’s fantastic stuff really, and some moments Mitchell plays his hand early, while some we don’t get a reveal (or anti climax) until the last second.  He gets it right basically every time, and I would love to mention a few instances in particular, but won’t in order to avoid spoiling the fun.  These set pieces are combined with the loud, screeching, pounding score that pummels us with tension, and just makes a heart pounding experience.  This is where the scares come from.  The slow tension building up to a crescendo, as opposed to the usual quick jump scares.  It does deliver one or two of those, and because they’re done sparingly they work on all counts also, for a little salt and pepper on the dish.

Now for all it’s greatness and wonderful set pieces, unfortunately the finale big set piece is rather silly and clumsy, involving a swimming pool and a dumb idea.  It is good fun, and it’s not terrible by any means, but it just seemed to fall outside of the caliber of the rest of the film.  That being said, it is exciting and might be saying something specific in it’s theme.  Other than that the film was damn near perfect for me as horror films go.  On top of all the scares there isn’t a hugely deep character driven plot, but there is enough individual motivation to give meaning to the rest, right up until the end.

‘It Follows’ is an incredible, scary and intense horror movie with a unique premise.  It’s got solid performances that move the plot along, and take us admirably from one incredibly set piece of scares to another.  The score, as I’ve mentioned already, is incredible and may even be the star of the show, driving the tension into our brains without remorse like some of the old greats, such as John Carpenter’s Halloween, or The Exorcist.  You could argue for days about what meaning, theme or metaphor Mitchell is trying to play with, from sexually transmitted diseases, to meaningless sexual encounters, to shame and guilt.  Debating them will just add to the fun.  If you like real horror, go watch ‘It Follows’.

Movie Melt Score - 9


It Follows has everything a great horror needs. It forgoes the cheap scare tactics for slow, tense build up and a premise that creates some horrifying set pieces. Add in themes that are open to interpretation and you've got the best American horror since The Conjuring.

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