This indie horror piece written and directed by David Robert Mitchell creeped into cinemas all the way back in 2014, it was met with overwhelming critical praise and this positive energy was mirrored by general audiences and horror lovers alike. I distinctly remember watching this film some time after it was released on my laptop, it was my introduction to the new modern wave of horror movies.
A double feature of ‘It Follows’ and ‘The Babadook’ (written and directed by the immensely talented Jennifer Kent) blossomed my love for the horror genre and exposed me to the intricate and methodical ways in which the genre can be utilised and warped while taking inspiration from some of the classics.
So I’m going to take some time to look at the cult classic ‘It Follows’ and discuss the elements that build it up and the elements that subsequently knock it down within my eyes. I’ve rewatched this film multiple times over the past few years and each time my opinion on it is ever so slightly twisted and distorted in one way or another, lets begin this rocky journey together shall we! (I'm not summarising the plot, a bold choice I know. This is a lawless land).
First off, right out the gate! The opening sequence of this film is incredible, everything about it is perfect in my opinion. It beautifully sets up the tone and the overall essence of the film. We’re introduced to a nameless character as she runs out of her house onto the street in hysterics. The entire time the camera stays in a stationary position as it rotates around the street locked onto this nameless character, all we see is her horrified expression as she runs in a wide circle back to her house (The audience is introduced to the fear of the unknown).
She's Dressed rather provocatively in seemingly silk pyjamas while wearing high heels, all of this is intentional as a homage to the ‘final girls’ which were a dime a dozen in horror flicks of old. We see her flee the house again and enter her car in a flurry, the camera is still stationary at this point frozen in its original position as we see the red break lights speed off down the road.
Everything about this opening scene is fantastic, every second is utilized perfectly nothing is wasted, everything within this scene serves a purpose. The urgency of the scene is felt through the screen, we the audience have just been thrown into this world but we immediately gauge that the situation is dire and the danger is palpable.
The nameless character is clearly in danger, we can tell from the way she’s dressed that she must’ve been caught off guard or in a vulnerable state, the fact we never see the threat only increases the anxiety we feel alongside this horror stricken girl. It’s just perfectly crafted in my opinion.
The premise itself, the glue that holds this film together, the key component if you will. It’s pretty cool. I enjoy it a lot, the idea of some nameless and faceless threat that’s constantly pursuing. Always walking towards you and it can take the form of those you know or those you don’t (it takes some down right disturbing forms as well). It’s terrifying, genuinely horrifying, the idea of it and when it catches you it kills you rather horrifically. The fact that this curse or whatever it is can only be passed on through sexual intercourse just deepens the lore behind it. It leaves the audience with so many questions, none of which are ever answered which I think its amazing. I personally love everything about that!
Now what I don’t like about this film, and it’s a pretty integral element to the film if you ask me. I in no way care about the characters we’re presented with. Theres never a point within this movie where we’re given a reason to invest emotionally In these characters, they can all be characterised as indifferent youths, so why should we feel anything but indifferent towards them?
None of them have any defining traits or character aspects to them, the only one who
exhibits some form of a character trait is Keir Gilchrist’s character ‘Paul’. And his defining trait is that he’s a big pervert when it comes to Maika Monroe’s character ‘Jay’, I guess we’re supposed to find this cute and somewhat endearing? Well it’s not! It’s bloody weird, having that mouse looking boy poking his head through the window as ‘Jay’ gets undressed.
Speaking of ‘Jay’ we’re just supposed to accept that she’s our protagonist because well that’s what we’re told I guess. She has no defining traits and she doesn't under go any growth or character arc at all. Theres no heart or soul to these characters, they’re cardboard so why should we as an audience feel emotionally invested in them? Well I suppose it’s because we have no other choice.
The characters are by far the weakest link within this film and its hard to look past it especially when you go back and rewatch it (My head was in my hands seven minutes in when were introduced to the core rag-tag team while rewatching, they're so boring!). It’s such a major and ugly flaw it's hard to look past it, I want to love this film but I can’t because of the lifeless boring blocks of flesh that we’re forced to care about, why should I care if some weird sex demon is coming to kill them?
Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom this film is saved from the bargain bin (did you see what I did there??) due to the fact that it has one of the best modern horror scores I’ve ever encountered, it's perfectly crafted for this film by a man named Rich Vreeland otherwise known as ‘Disasterpeace’.
This is his first film score after working on a number of scores for video games and he just knocks it out of the park! It’s heavily influenced by previous John Carpenter scores mainly the ‘Halloween’ score, the heavy synth noise just amplifies the sense of anxiety and terror that’s carried throughout this film, it particularly boosts the mood of the opening scene as we hear the drastic near cacophony like audio sonically attack us. It’s by far the most impressive aspect of this ambitious horror picture.
So what do we have here? Well we have a structure (the film itself) which is built upon a solid foundation (the premise) not only is the foundation solid, its incredibly intriguing, interesting and original. The exterior of this structure is rather attractive as well (the general aesthetic and visuals are rather pleasing, paired with the stellar score).
However, when you take a walk inside this rather sturdy and attractive structure you’re met with a nightmare, the interior of this structure is in ruin (the plot is entirely nonsensical, the characters are abysmal and just not likeable or relatable in anyway) there’s heavy rot and water damage everywhere, just a complete disaster. So moral of the story, it’s not very good is it? Or maybe it is very good? No! As a whole its not very good but there’s a number of elements when examined separately are in fact quite good… It’s very confusing isn’t it.
It's been a rather cathartic experience writing this piece about 'It Follows', I'll probably never revisit this film. It introduced me to the modern interpretation of the horror genre and for that it'll always hold a special place in my heart.