It Follows is one of my favorite horror films of the last few years. The movie’s plot revolves around a young woman as she flees from a terrifying menace that relentlessly pursues her. Mix in some quirky, art-film-type friends and the occasional quote from Dostoevsky and you’ve basically got the story down. I hope that doesn’t sound like a put down. In this case, simplicity is the film’s biggest asset. The careful balance of quirkiness, absurdity, and outright terror is the result of a writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s precise mastery of his craft.
Warning: this paragraph is going to have what some spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk. Or just skip down to the next paragraph. Here we go. One of the things that I found interesting about It Follows was its subversion of the common portrayal of sexuality within the horror genre. We often see teenagers gettin’ it on in horror films only to be killed in the next scene—almost as a tacit punishment for their sexual acts. And yes, the “it” of It Follows is basically a sexually transmitted horror, so it would be easy to write this film off as playing into the familiar stereotype. But I think that by being so open and blatant about the “have-sex-and-therefore-pay-the-price” trope, the film allows its characters to (equally openly) oppose that system. In other words, other films affirm that set-up by being silent about its justice; It Follows opposes that set-up by making it the focal point of the film and thereby having its characters war against it. Furthermore, the film isn’t actually about sex (in my opinion). Rather, when you take the Dostoevsky quotes into account, the film is about the inevitable death that comes for us all. It’s about inevitability. Sex is just a byproduct of that, since it is so connected with life—and I suspect that this connection with life is the exact reason that horror and sexuality are so often paired… one represents the taking of a life; the other represents, possibly, the conception of new life. (Side note: there is a lot that could be said for the film being, actually, about sex and the social systems we’ve developed around it, and becoming sexually active as a teenager, and all that mess as well. So we could have a conversation about that).
Anyway, I think It Follows is a beautifully constructed film that builds tension very well. There is ambiguity, there is (in my opinion) a believable plot in the sense of people believing or disbelieving characters’ stories, and the teenagers in the film act like actual teenagers. If you like artsier films and films that go a little deeper than simple jump scares (though I love those too), It Follows is probably up your alley.
Tomorrow’s edition of this Halloween marathon of reviews is going to be about the film Creep.