A complete throwback to 70s/80s horror, IT FOLLOWS is one of the most well-made horror films I’ve seen in a long time and has all of the makings to be the next horror classic. From its haunting Suspiria-esque score, to its retro look and scream queen in the making (Maika Monroe), I expect audiences will be just as scared and delighted as I was.
The movie starts off on a quiet street. Screams rip through the silence as a young girl comes barreling out of her house, looking around frantically. Seemingly, someone is chasing her, yet we see nothing. She jumps in her car and heads to the beach. There she calls her parents to say her final goodbyes and her mangled body is found the next morning in the sand. But what was she running from, and more importantly what killed her?
Cut to Jay (Monroe) who has just started to date a new jock-type named Hugh (Jake Weary). Like we learned from Randy in SCREAM, it never ends well for a character who has sex in a horror movie; Jay finds that out the hard way. After Jay seals the deal with Hugh, he chloroforms her and she wakes up strapped to a wheelchair. There, Hugh tells her that she has now been given the worst STD of all, a murderous poltergeist that will follow her until it kills her. Lovely! The only way it will stop is if Jay passes it along to someone else. Hugh shows her the ghost so she will believe him and know what she is dealing with.
The basic rules for dealing with the entity include:
- The ghost can take the form of anyone, including those you love. Don’t be fooled and don’t let it touch you or you will die.
- If you sleep with someone else, the ghost begins to target them instead of you, but you will still be able to see the ghost forever (those who have not been “infected” cannot see it and will not be harmed by it).
- HOWEVER, if the person you passed the ghost to is murdered, the target comes back on you. So, technically, you are trying to get as many people between yourself and the ghost as possible. Basically, there is nothing that will stop you from looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life, being paranoid when anyone starts walking toward you. Unless you follow the chain very closely, you won’t know where you are in the reverse pecking order until it’s too late.
- The ghost just walks toward you so although it isn’t fast, you will need to put as much distance between yourself and it as possible
- Never be in a room with only one exit
So, Jay is in quite the predicament. She must accomplish three missions 1) constantly escape the ghost 2) convince her friends that she is not crazy and 3) pass it on. Of course, nothing is that easy and that is why IT FOLLOWS is so interesting.
The wonderful thing about Sundance is that the theaters are made for movie lovers. To my delight, each theater’s sound is amped up so loud, it’s hard to hear anything around you. My normal horror movie position is cowering in my seat with my hands semi-plugging my ears. But with the volume turned up so loud, my defense mechanism was useless, meaning I was extra on-edge. This buildup of suspense is writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s bread and butter, and I was certainly on the edge of my seat for the entire film, well, when I wasn’t accidentally smacking the man beside me thanks to a jump scare or random, non-scary sounds, like a zipper being zipped, which still made me jump. Clearly Mitchell had me in the palm of his hand.
The camera work, mood, and cinematography in IT FOLLOWS are top-notch. I especially loved the imagery Mitchell focused the camera on, the retro color palate, and the film’s frequent camera movements. It was also fun to find the malicious “follower” in scenes when maybe Jay didn’t see it herself. There is not a scarier image to me than a character being stalked without their knowledge, and only you, the audience knows what’s coming. IT FOLLOWS banks on this fear. Much like THE STRANGERS, it has many scenes that make you want to scream LOOK BEHIND you at the characters onscreen.
This movie makes you seriously think, “What would I do if some creepy entity was following me?” This question created the only real problem I had with the film. For example, it seems like the ghost wasn’t a fan of water, so could Jay just go live out on a houseboat somewhere? It would be a lonely existence, but hey, she would be alive. Also, why did the characters keep trying to shoot the ghost when that plan obviously wasn’t working? Anyway, these are nitpicks that clearly show I enjoyed the movie enough to seriously dissect it and plan my exit strategy if this ever happens to me.
This is not your average teenage torture porn film. It is smart, refreshing and exciting for the genre. Hopefully IT FOLLOWS, and other movies like YOU’RE NEXT and THE BABADOOK will usher in a new era of horror that fans can look forward to.
My Review: A-