It Follows (2015)

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For those looking for a mainstream horror film where the story and characters are sacrificed to provide a gamut of cliché and conventional scares, you’ll probably be disappointed in what It Follows has to offer. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell has created what some critics are calling “the best horror film in years.” That’s a little too much of a superlative statement for me, but I can agree that it is smart, unique, stylish, and a breath of fresh air to the horror genre, much like The Babadook was last year. If you liked that film, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It’s a slow burn horror in that it takes its time building up tension and suspense in a very effective way through the use of setting, a wide-angle lens camera, and an awesome synth score. You may go home afterwards and have no trouble sleeping, but you might be looking over your shoulder on your way back to the car.

The movie opens with a young girl running out of her house in high heels (serious props to her, I couldn’t run in those things), looking past the camera in fear of something we can’t see. She runs in a half circle, back into the house, grabs her purse and keys, and then we see her on the beach, talking to her father on the phone and apologizing for ever being a pain in the ass. Later we see her with her body mangled in an awkward position, thus setting the tone for the horror that will ensue. Focus shifts to Jay (Maika Monroe), a 19-year-old college student living in suburban Detroit, who contracts what can only be described as a sexually transmitted monster after a night of consensual sex with a guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). Hugh does the gentlemanly thing by tying Jay to a wheelchair and forcing her to feast her eyes upon the monster that will now be relentlessly following her until she decides to pass the curse to someone else. It’s slow, but not dumb. It can take the form of a stranger or someone you know, but don’t let it reach you, because if it does, it will kill you and then it will make its way back down the line of people who contracted it. That’s pretty much the gist of “It.”

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Mitchell does a great job of bringing us into this almost dreamlike world. The time period is irrelevant, although it’ll be sure to confuse and maybe even frustrate some. The characters watch black and white movies on old television sets that look like they’re from the ’70s or possibly even earlier. On the other hand, you have the girl in the beginning scene using a modern day cell phone, and another character reads books on what looks like a kindle in the shape of a clamshell. The ambiguity of the setting is supposed to make us feel like this isn’t our world, this is like some alternate universe where sexually transmitted monsters might exist, a world I wouldn’t want to live in. Most of the film takes place in suburban areas of Detroit, where poverty hasn’t yet spread to their turf. But you would never know it was Detroit unless one of the girls didn’t mention how her mother warned her never to go past 8 Mile (I can thank Eminem for even knowing what that is).

The cinematography plays a big part in the suspense of the film. The 360 degree panning shots are wonderfully effective, as well the wide-angle lens that always leaves more than enough background in view just in case “It” decides to creep into the frame at any point. No matter what’s going on in the foreground, you’re sure to always be looking behind the characters, because you know it’s coming, but you don’t know when. Along with this, the music is a complete mood setter. It’s composed of a John Carpenter-esque synth soundtrack that works so well in helping create and maintain the tension throughout the film.

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The most obvious connections you can make with the plot is that “It” is an allegory for an STD, and Jay is a symbol for “innocence lost.” Yeah, that works on some level. There’s a lot more than that you can take from it, though. For example, if you look past the surface you can find themes of morality, mortality, trust, love, and fear of entering adulthood. After Jay sleeps with Hugh, she lets him in on a little fantasy she used to have about being an adult and having the freedom to go on dates, but when she reaches adulthood and obtains this freedom, it’s not what she expected. Freedom isn’t really freedom at all when there’s responsibility and consequences that come with any action. Ultimately, she and the other characters, like Paul (Keir Gilchrist)–the childhood friend who clearly has a thing for her–end up reminiscing of the days when they were young kids without a care in the world.

When you reach adulthood, that’s usually the time when you become most aware of your own mortality as you shed the naïve image of yourself as being almost invincible. For Jay, this mortality is as real and fearful as ever, because, well…there’s a horrifying monster following her now. One of Jay’s friends, Yara (Olivia Luccardi) spends a lot of the time in the film reading Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, of which she quotes at one point, speaking about the inevitability of death. Death is an obvious symbol in a lot of horror films, but It Follows has a distinct way of showing how our main character figures out how cope with it.

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There are a few ways you can watch this movie. You can try and pick out whatever deeper meaning or symbolism you can possibly find in the plot, and I’m sure any one person can find quite a few if they tried, or, you can just sit back and enjoy it for what it is. It’s a stylish Halloween meets Final Destination meets whatever throwback to ’80s horror you can think of. Or you can choose to dismiss it as a “not scary at all” arthouse piece of crap. I’ve seen plenty of mixed audience reviews regardless of the mostly positive critics’ opinions, and when it comes down to it, this type of movie isn’t going to work for everyone. If you want a lot of gore and a lot of jump scares (and it’s okay if you do), you aren’t going to find that here.

For me, personally, I loved it. It’s visually stunning, I loved the soundtrack, I thought the acting was definitely above average, and the story is a refreshing and unique take on horror. I like how Mitchell created this very unsettling, creepy atmosphere without having to rely solely on gore and jump scares. Is it the most terrifying movie in recent years? I don’t think so. Does it get a little weird towards the end? Yes. But I’ll stand by my initial response to it, I liked it, it stuck with me when I left the theater, and I think that it’s a very well-made film in general. And admit it, being followed is scary, if you were being followed by even a non-paranormal being–especially if you’re a girl or maybe a drug dealer who screwed over your boss recently–you’d be scared, am I right?

4.5/5

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24 thoughts on “It Follows (2015)

  1. Great review; been waiting for it since late last year. Hopefully this comes out after the 10th of April on VOD or I – like others outside the US – won’t be able to catch it for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Yeah I was disappointed that it wasn’t going to have a same day VOD release date on the 27th like they had planned, seems like it would’ve been a smart way to go. I hope it becomes available to everyone soon.

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  2. Great review Justine and I mean that sooo much, best one I’ve read so far 🙂

    This sounds brilliant, I am so excited to see this when I finally do!!!!!!!!!!!

    I love the idea the time period is not important and there are things that could point to different eras, I LOVE stuff like that in films!

    And it just all sounds bloody brilliant!!!

    P.S I can’t even WALK in high shoes haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I do think you’ll love it! And yeah, I can’t either. I have to wear six inch heels to walk down the aisle at my friend’s wedding in a few weeks and I am just praying I will make it without falling! Haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh no!! maybe wear them round the house for a bit and try to get used to them?!

        I hate high heels!!! Why girls do it to themselves I don’t really know. I couldn’t give a fuck about looking cool or tall or elegant….I just want to be comfy!!!!!

        So you are a bridesmaid then? That’s lovely!!! 🙂

        And no problem, as ever, your review was perfect!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I had thought about that. I don’t think the dogs would like the sound of clicking heels on the hard wood floor. They are very sensitive beasts haha. Yes, first time being a bridesmaid and hopefully my last. If anyone else I know decides to get married they can do it in town hall! Or Vegas, Vegas would work. I’m with you there. Flat boots in the winter, flat sandals in the summer, flat shoes in between, I’m all about the comfort and embracing my shortness, screw the high heels!

          I actually took some business courses in college where I was told by my professor (a man) that the only acceptable business attire for women is wearing heels. I was like uhhh..fuck off? Why don’t you wear them for an hour and let me know how your feet and your back feel, douchebaggin’ douche!

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  3. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that touched on this many themes and had this many layers. I think it was smart to hold the VOD on their part. People are absolutely starved for good horror and it made $3.8 of its $4.5 million this weekend, and it’s going to expand into even more theaters next weekend. I think it could end up looking a lot like Chef last year, hanging around for a while, especially with Easter weekend and Spring breaks coming up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely, it wasn’t until I sat down and tried to write this that I realized how layered it really was. Yeah, the only crappy thing is there are still a lot of people out there wanting to see this but can’t because it hasn’t opened wide enough. Hopefully by next weekend more people will have the chance to.

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