With a premise that’s as ingeniously simple as it is terrifying, David Robert Mitchell’s masterful low-budget chiller stalks our primal fears with a potency that’s all-too-rare in today’s horror cinema.
The brilliance of It Follows is in the way it borrows from the likes of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1998), Ringu (1998) and Whistle And I’ll Come To You (1968), the little-seen screen adaptation of M.R. James’ classic short story, and comes up with something that’s both refreshing and bloodcurdling.
Based on a recurring nightmare Mitchell experienced as a child, the horror of It Follows stems from the spine-tingling concept of being pursued by an unrelenting figure that only the victim can see.
Mitchell’s script injects sex into the equation, both as a nod to the horror trope of punishing those who engage in intercourse, but also as a sideways observation on the consequences of sexually transmitted disease; in this case one spread as a deadly curse that can only be lifted by having sex with another person.
The film’s disturbing prologue tracks a terrified teenage girl who perplexes her father by running out of her house and speeding off in the family car; all the while looking behind her at what appears to be nothing.
The grisly aftermath points to something very real, however, and the next teenager on the chopping block is Jay (Maika Monroe), whose sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary) takes a disturbing turn when she’s informed she’s now the target of a malevolent figure that will stalk and kill her unless she passes the curse onto someone else.
Despite not being able to see the supernatural figure, which constantly changes its appearance, Jay’s sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Greg (Daniel Zovatto) come to her aid and try to find a way to stop Jay’s relentless pursuer.
In the wrong hands, this could so easily have been just another limp-wristed horror flick, but Mitchell gives us a genuinely taut and unnerving experience. The use of the camera is inspired; from the artful 360-degree pans which are as slow and methodical as the assailant, to the way he cuts between tight close-ups and empty corridors or doorways that invite us to imagine the worst is just out of shot. Furthermore, Mike Gioulakis’ oppressive cinematography uses light and dark to terrific effect.
A superbly edited sequence on a beach leads to a – literally – hair-raising moment, while a key sequence in a swimming pool is a masterclass in grinding tension.
It Follows distinguishes itself from the crop of lazily edited cash-grabbing products loosely defined as ‘horror’ by giving us characters we actually care about. Jay is sympathetically played by Monroe and the friendship she shares with the others is believable and engaging.
One of the film’s strongest threads is its jagged and percussive synth score by Disasterpeace that evokes the very best of Carpenter and serves to amp up the terror rather than smother it, while geek fans will note the use of the Serif Gothic font in the title is a further nod to Carpenter’s Halloween.
A bona fide modern horror classic, the cold, clammy sense of dread of It Follows will mean you’re looking over your shoulder long after the credits roll.
Oh, this sounds so good. Thanks for the early word, Mark.
It really is mate; very atmospheric. I love horror movies and this one is a class above.
Great review. Can’t wait to see it 😀
Cheers Tim. Think you’ll love it.
I loved ‘It Follows,’ it’s great to hear you enjoyed it too 🙂
Yeah, it was something else. A great way to kick off 2015.
Hey Mark! A friend of mine just mentioned this film on my blog the other day, she said it’s more of a thriller than straight horror. Either way it looks too scary for me though, even the title itself is kind of hair-raising isn’t it?
Well, I’d say it was more of a horror with thriller elements (describes many films I guess). It is quite scary I won’t lie!
Ok thanks for the warning! I don’t do well w/ scary/gory images so I think I’ll give this a skip, Mark.
I have GOT to see this! Sounds awesome! I love the MR James adaptation of “Whistle” and of course if the film has elements of Halloween and Ringu, then I am so there, Mark! Thanks for the review. Nice job!
You HAVE got to see this Vic! I’m very pleased there is another fan of ‘Whistle…’ – an underseen classic. Watch it mate and let me know what you think.
I definitely will! Looking forward to it. Oh and I reviewed “Whistle” a while back. It’s up on my page if you’re interested. Just search it and it will come up. Thanks again, man!
Will check it out mate
Excellent review. I just saw this yesterday and really loved the score from Disasterpeace. As we spoke about on Twitter, Whistle & I’ll Come To You is one of my favourite ghost stories and I agree this does share similarities with it. I haven’t seen David Robert Mitchell’s Death Of The American Sleepover but I’m tempted to give it a look now.
Really appreciate that. I’m also tempted by Death Of The American Sleepover after seeing this; he’s a real talent. Anybody who loves Whistle and I’ll Come to You is ok in my book by the way!
Great review! I’m really looking forward to seeing this, looks so atmospheric and Maika was wonderful in The guest
Thank you! It took me a while to recognise her from The Guest. She’s making a habit out of John Carpenter-inspired movies.
Heard really good things about this. I don’t do horror films often so I like to pick them carefully! I’ll be trying to check this one out. Top review mate.
Thanks as always mate. I thoroughly recommend it; look forward to your review when you check it out.
One of the best reviews I’ve read on this. I saw this the other day and absolutely loved it. The ambiguous ending is more chilling than any conclusion you could draw from this.
Thank you very much; most kind. Glad you got as much out of this as I did.
Hey man I came across this when you first posted but decided to not saying anything until I got to see it. Finally go the chance tonight. Just got back actually. I’m. . . . going to have to mull this one over. . .
What were your first impressions?
Hmmm….it was not as intense as I’d hoped. But now I’m getting to a point where I think it was actually pretty damn good. Very cleverly staged scenes on the beach and in the pool. Still wish there were more of those kinds of moments though. But boy did it open with a bang.
So, here’s my tuppence worth: I found the casting, script, direction, acting, location and soundtrack faultless to a T, BUT …I felt the film would have been more effective if the paranoia that surely any followée would feel was not conveyed adequately or convincingly enough to the audience. I sympathised with the character, but I felt a tweak here and there would have led me to empathise with her and therefore made the film a little more spine-chilling.
To be honest, I was half expecting you to slate this. Some have, saying it’s not scary. I watched this as a secret film screening by Odeon before the hype machine took over which I think benefited my approach to it. Certain scenes I found creepy as hell (the opening scene and the scene in the girl’s house where the creepy tall guy suddenly appeared in particular), but I hear what you’re saying. It’s almost a modern horror masterpiece (the soundtrack is brilliant) but falls a wee bit short.
I long for a proper scare-fest, I really do. It is starting to feel like a lost art.
You watched The Babadook yet?