Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Yuccardi, Lili Sepe
Plot: Jay (Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, only to find out she has inherited a curse where a mysterious figure stalks her relentlessly, until the day it catches her.
A sexually transmitted horror movie monster? You can almost see the lightbulb flash above the heads of Scary Movie 6’s writers.
Almost certain parodies aside, It Follows is deadly serious about its subject matter. The premise is an interesting one. The monster chooses its victims depending on who is currently cursed, a curse that can be passed on through sexual intercourse. Instantly, we are treated to Mitchell dissecting the topic of sex. For instance, Jay gets the curse passed onto her, because the guy who previously had it, tricks her into bed and callously gets rid of it. Problem solved. However, Jay cannot bring herself to subject someone else to this nightmare. As a cursed character drives past a group of prostitutes, you can almost see the internal debate of hiring one for the night. Curse gone just like that. However, is it morally destroying to do that? Maika Monroe is directed phenomenally (not to take away from the actress’s magnificent performance – after the Guest and this, she is turning into my new favourite actress), as the cursed with the ‘disease’. It Follows feels like a realistic account of a victim who has been unwittingly being given a sexually transmitted disease. She becomes a shell of her former self, locking herself away from the world, miles away from the nature-loving heroine we are introduced to in the opening scenes. Seeing as only she can see the monster, it feels like Jay is the only one who can understand what is going on with her life. Sure, her friends are supportive and always on hand for advice, but they are even more lost than her, unable to truly comprehend the nightmare that their friend is living through. The supporting cast are handily present to explain what is going on, leaving Monroe free to stay vacant and in character throughout the middle of the film. Exposition is delivered via gossiping watchers, who have no idea what is going on with the lead character, yet feel knowledgeable enough to judge Jay. Jay begins to judge herself, questioning whether she deserves what happens to her. “There’s something wrong with me!” is the heart-breaking line we have seen in the trailers. The police shrug off her cries for help, because the sexual encounter was consensual and therefore not rape. However, as Mitchell questions, surely if Monroe wasn’t aware of the curse before agreeing to sleep with someone, then technically she was raped. All manner of sexual crimes are dragged into the discussion, a topic that clearly is passionate to the director. Early on, Jay is in a swimming pool and catches a peeping tom, staring at her in her swimming costume. She laughs it off, but surely that was just a massive breach of her privacy – a form of rape in itself. Perhaps, Mitchell questions, we are too casual about rape, STDs and similar topics. However, there is a bright side to the debate. It must be said that the group of teenagers in this movie make a pretty solid monster-fighting team. Nightmare on Elm Street and Paranormal Activity have taught us that a staple of a horror movie is for the group of victims to end up being just as hazardous to the lead heroine as the monster itself. However, as Jay turns to her friend group for help, they come up with intelligent ways to keep her alive and sane. Perhaps Mitchell is suggesting that company and understanding friends are vital for anyone suffering from a sexually transmitted disease being sprung upon them.
However, this serious subject does not dilute the horror in the slightest. The Follower is one of the most interesting horror movie monsters we have seen in a long time. It cleverly takes the slow, lumbering walk of old timey horror movie baddies and turns that laughable plot hole into the stuff of pure nightmares. It doesn’t stop or rest, when it has its chosen victim, constantly walking towards that person. Sure, it is easy enough to escape once it is spotted, but as the characters settle into a conversation, thinking they are safe, the monster comes for them, when their guard is down. As the characters sit in a house with many nooks and crannies, suddenly any building feels horrifyingly claustrophobic. In many ways, it is just as terrifying when it is absent, as when it is on-screen. It Follows is never dull, because even when the film takes a breather to discuss sexual politics and handle exposition, we are still waiting for the monster to burst into the frame. It Follows uses jump scares sparingly, but the potential for them is always there, creating an anxious state of mind in the audience. One of my favourite things about It Follows is that Mitchell explores this new monster with us. As we are introduced to this new terror, he allows us to join in with questioning the monster’s boundaries. Can it walk through walls? Can it walk through people? Can it hurt people who aren’t cursed? Can it be killed? All of these questions are burning in the back of our mind, so when we are aware that the monster is in the vicinity, we are apprehensive, not totally aware of the capabilities of this new killer. It makes watching It Follows all the more exciting, because it feels like we are allowed to take part in the birth of this creature.
I did have a worry for It Follows. Surely, the monster is much scarier when it isn’t there. As I said in the above paragraph, it is scary when it isn’t there and is relatively easy to escape when spotted. Theoretically, that means that there will never be a pay-off to the tension cutting through the film. In many ways, any jump scares would negate the horror, cancelling the fear factor out almost entirely. However, it is a credit to Mitchell that this never happens. He finds imaginative, new ways to make his monster terrifying with every appearance. Sometimes, it is the malicious sexual violence of the monster. The brazen nudity (naked hasn’t been done this grotesque and chilling since the Shining). The blank look in the Follower’s eyes. It is relentless and unstoppable, making every encounter guaranteed to have the audience squirming in their seats. It Follows might be more focused on intelligent debates than scares, but this doesn’t make it any less of a hit when it comes to current horror movies. In fact, this could be the best one I have seen since Babadook.
Final Verdict: Finally the good… no, great… horror movies are outnumbering the bad. It Follows is another success story for the genre, as horror finally hits its golden age.