It Follows (GFF 2015)
March 1, 2015 Leave a comment
Leaving the apparent safety of suburbia and travelling into the city to meet a man, Jess (Maika Monroe) encounters a strange and sinister force that soon follows her home, to the house she shares with her mother and her younger sibling, Kelly (Lili Sepe). A creature that stalks its prey, always on foot and rarely in the same form twice, it always catches up with her eventually, wherever she tries to hide. With the help of her sister’s friends, Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Paul (Keir Gilchrist), and neighbour Greg (Daniel Zovatto), Jess and Kelly set out in search of answers — by trying to track down Jess’ recently disappeared boyfriend (Jake Weary) — before seeking refuge at Greg’s familial holiday home miles out of town.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the scariest. What if there was someone following you, wherever you go, with malicious intent? Unstoppable monsters are nothing new in horror, but there’s something about the antagonist of It Follows that stands it apart from the typical boogeyman and the usual forces of darkness. Directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows feels more akin to J-Horror than its Western relation, only instead of a cursed videotape or cornea it posits a cursed seed, to be passed on through intercourse. But what is “It” a manifestation of? Scripted references to Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Tomb” would seem to suggest the slow march of time, and the inevitability of death and decay, but the premise speaks to a sexual dimension too. Whether it’s a spin on Original Sin or the AIDs epidemic,”It” seems to be the personification of a stigma you just can’t shake. After all, the fact that only the cursed can see their assailant leaves them ostracised from society and facing down death alone.
Only Mitchell’s second feature, It Follows is an astounding achievement. While not exactly innovative, it feels remarkably fresh and remains incredibly frightening. The sight of lumbering strangers is a familiar one, as fans of zombies, slashers and even The Borg can attest, but “It” redefines the implications of this slow-motion chase. Yes you can run, drive, sail away, but however far, fast and frequently you travel you will have to stop eventually — otherwise what is the point in escaping death if not to reclaim some sort of life? Even if you are successful in passing the curse on, however, you can never truly rest in the knowledge that “It” has left you alone, for a mistake further down the chain will leave you the target once again. It’s easy to appreciate what this means for the characters because the audience is forced to be equally ever-vigilant, and even the most innocuous scenes and encounters are mired in dread as viewers search the screen for that tell-tale shuffle. Whereas most horrors these days depend on intermittent jump-scares to stimulate their audiences, It Follows builds and maintains an oppressive atmosphere of tension that seems determined to stress you out.
Maika Monroe is exceptional as Jay, building on her recent success in The Guest (which — coincidentally — also featured a heavily synthesised score) to very encouraging effect. More than just a simple scream queen, though she can undoubtedly shriek with the best of them, Jay is a complicated character who is called upon to make some incredibly difficult decisions. Usually love triangles hold precious little interest, but forced to choose which of the men in her life to curse forever Jay’s dilemma becomes suddenly intriguing. Her relationship with Paul, her younger sister’s friend, proves particularly fruitful, positioned as he is as the film’s ingenue. Smitten — and a little obsessed — with Jay, he spends much of the movie pining after her, repeatedly offering to place himself in mortal peril for her own peace of mind — if only she would have sex with him. It might have felt predatory, or at least pathetic, but there’s an innocence to Keir Gilchrist’s portrayal that prevents Paul from coming across like a total loser. The film is just as interested in its characters’ lives as their deaths, and unlike more conservative horror films, It Follows isn’t looking to punish promiscuity, more often than not using sex as a means of salvation.
It’s not often these days that you get to pronounce a horror movie genuinely horrifying, but It Follows really is as scary as everyone is saying. Like The Babadook, like The Descent, like Ringu, Mitchell’s film is your new nightmare. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema.