The last couple years, there has been a small indie horror film that has come out, and challenged the conventions of the genre, while being almost unanimously considered to be the best horror release of the year. In 2013, it was You’re Next. Last year, it was The Babadook. Although 2015 is still relatively young, this year’s contender is almost certainly It Follows. The hype machine around this movie has been going strong, and the praise has been consistently good in both the genre and mainstream media. But does it live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
It Follows is the story of a young woman named Jay who, after having sex with the sort of sketchy guy she’s dating, finds herself being stalked by a shape shifting entity, pursuing her relentlessly, slowly but surely a straight line. This thing can take on many forms, and occasionally appears as someone the victim knows. To make matters worse, this thing is only visible to those inflicted with this curse. As you could imagine, this scenario leads to an insane degree of paranoia, as this attacker is always coming, and could literally be anyone.
This premise sounds simple enough, but when you break it down, there are things about it that are downright brilliant. First of all, this is basically a monster movie without a monster. There is no specific character given to “It”. It’s everyone, and it’s no one. This breaks the modern horror convention of having the villain protagonist work his way through a swarm of stupid forgettable teenagers while spouting cheesy one liners. Every extra is the monster. The background is the monster. The camera is the monster. The sound design and score are the monster. This is one of those simple yet sort of revolutionary decisions that horror movies have been justly criticized for ignoring in recent years. And it works here. You are with Jay and her friends at every turn, and as much as they are forced to be mindful of their surroundings at all times, so is the audience.
The curse itself has rules that make sense, and are never contradicted. The way that it is passed on makes it necessary to explain it to the new host, and in turn, explain it to the audience. I know this is pretty much Screenwriting 101, but it’s done so effectively and organically in this movie that It deserves mention. It’s never really explained what it is or why it exists, but what’s really important to the story here is the how, and that is covered.
I mentioned the camera work and sound design, but they are worth bringing up again. This movie looks and sounds great. There are several ambitious camera moves which, while adding to the overall presentation, also serve as a character in a way. The music is sort of a filthy retro synth mix, which fits here. There are homages to 80s horror movies laced throughout, and the score definitely adds to that feel. This movie looks and sounds like something made for ten times what it cost, which is a huge testament to the craftsmanship involved in every aspect of its production.
The only real complaint I have is that the third act is a little weak. The sense of paranoia and dread is traded in for an ultimately pointless set piece, which while presenting some interesting visuals and cool ideas, feels somewhat out of place in comparison to the rest of the movie. Everything else about it, I loved. The performances were good, for the most part. The character motivations made sense in the story, and their relationships seemed genuine. The first half of the movie is unsettling and genuinely scary. There ARE a couple of cheap jump scares, but for the most part, the sense of dread is earned here. It’s a well made, original horror movie. What more do you want? Go see this. It’s great.
–you can find Scott checking over his shoulder for spooky geriatrics on Twitter