(2015 - Director: David Robert Mitchell Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist)
What impresses me most about the sure-to-be-instant-cult-classic It Follows, is the respect it has for its audience’s intelligence. The premise is simple and established almost right from the beginning. It’s typical in that it follows a group of teenagers as they band together and try to escape a vague, but haunting, curse. It Follows is a great example of how not to let plot, or mythology, get in the way of a feature script. We don’t need a lot of answers. We don’t have time to even ask questions. We’re placed in an unsettling world with chilling visuals and we’re too busy being scared about what’s around the corner to really ask why.
It Follows takes its sweet time to raise the stakes. It’s scary because everything is hidden in plain sight. We see it, and yet, we can’t do anything about it. Director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) covers many scenes so that we see entire spaces, either through long pans, tracking shots, or zooms. His lingering camera becomes a character all on its own. It heightens our awareness that something is out there, somewhere, coming toward us. There aren’t any jump cuts or sound cues doing all the work like you see in most other horror films. It Follows is your worst nightmare. It’s unavoidable death creeping toward you one step at a time.
It Follows is a teenager flick. In fact, adults are almost completely absent throughout this film. I think that’s a deliberate statement about these teenagers’ reliance on authority, or lack thereof. There are no dumb characters in this film. "It" is intelligent in that it shape shifts and adapts to barriers. Every kid is intelligent. We see them read classic novels, watch classic movies, attending college classes. These aren’t your run of the mill horror flick teenagers. These are thoughtful characters that strategize, communicate, and protect one another.
Having parents (or any adults) play a major role in this film would have made the sexual relationships seem rebellious. But the sex in this film never feels rebellious. And that’s the point. If they were rebellious, and passed on the curse through intercourse, then that would have had a completely different meaning. Teenagers having sex is viewed as completely normal in this film, which is interesting considering the threat is transformed through sex. The film doesn’t glorify underage sex, nor does it demonize it. The threat becomes an extreme STD where if you get it, you’re doomed to death until you transfer it to your next lover. And even then your life will always be in danger. You will always live in fear. I think a greater message about teenager promiscuity, or adolescent crisis, can easily be felt, but it isn’t necessary for this film to work. The direction, and score (oh man this music score is awesome!) demand your attention. It’s not even so much a horror film as it is a fantastic suspense film. Nevertheless, It Follows becomes a truly immersive cinematic experience and it shouldn’t be missed.