I don’t watch very many horror films because of two main reasons: the first being that horror films almost always seem to lack the quintessential themes and narrative elements that lead to basic filmmaking success; there is hardly any character development in most mainstream horror films, and they tend to sacrifice intelligence and suspense for cheap thrills and gore. The second reason is that, quite frankly, I like to sleep at night. There are some horror films, however, that manage to use great filmmaking techniques and are overall fantastic works of cinema. These are the films that I am willing to sacrifice a good nights sleep for. Some that initially come to mind are Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, Blair Witch Project, the Babadook and Psycho. After hearing about all the praises for It Follows, I decided I would give this movie a chance as well.
Since this isn’t a very well known movie, I’ll discuss the plot a little bit. Essentially, there is this curse that is only passed on by sexual intercourse. The main character, Jay, receives this curse from a boy that she has previously hooked up with, meaning that for the rest of her life there will be this thing, this “It,” walking towards her at all time trying to kill her. It will never run, never speak; it just walks. It is always following her and is invisible to everyone else except for those who have had this curse before. The only way to pass the curse on is to have sex with somebody else, but if the person you passed it on to is killed by It, then it begins following you again, ensuring that even when the characters think they’re safe, they may not be. It’s a very simple topic, but the director does such a great job of getting as much as possible out of this storyline, making it his own, and turning it into a modern day urban legend.
The first thing that stands out so well in this movie is its brilliant use of dynamic camera movements to portray suspension, and just the overall feeling of suspension as well. While it doesn’t quite hit Hitcockian type levels of suspense, it comes incredibly close to achieving such a high standard of comparison. For me, suspense is always going to make a movie more terrifying than any amount of blood and gore. I want to say there is one relatively gory scene in the entire movie, right at the beginning, and even it is used in a way that haunts the audience, with the shot lingering just a bit longer than normal, forcing you to look at the horror on screen. It Follows has such great storytelling, solid acting, and moves along at a slow, yet very deliberate, tension-building pace. The feeling of paranoia was almost as extreme as the suspense. Every time you see an unfocused figure in the background and start to wonder if it may be this “It,” the camera quickly moves away and comes back into focus ten seconds later, revealing that “It” is right behind Jay ready to attack.
Overall, the film isn’t particular scary while watching it, but what makes it brilliant is the lingering feeling that the films leaves you with. If you actually take time to take a step back and think about the entire premise of the film, you begin to realize that it is actually a terrifying situation. It is filmed in such a haunting way, which such an atmospheric musical score, that even though it only has a couple of outright scary moments, it is one of the more terrifying films that have come out in recent years. It takes horror themes and maneuvers them in such a creative and original way that makes the film stand out as not only terrifying, but also a wonderfully executed overall film with a very well told story. More horror films need to be like this one.
It Follows (2015): 4/4 stars