It Follows is a new horror film, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, that captures the essence of nightmares—that feeling that something is after you and you’re never quite quick enough to be rid of it. This retro film uses clever cinematography and a high strung score to build tension without using too much gore, which separates it from the likes of other horror films.
Maika Monroe stars as teenage Jay Height, who begins dating Hugh (Jake Weary), the handsome new guy in town. After the two go on a few dates and have sex for the first time, Jay realizes that something is terribly wrong. Something begins to follow her, something that, according to Hugh, she can only “pass on” to someone else by having sex with them. Now, if you’re thinking this is a movie about an STD, you’d be wrong, but not too far off.
Instead, what he’s talking about is a curse that causes an evil “thing” to follow her, no matter where she is. It may be slow, but it’s always walking in her direction. And it can look like anyone—like a stranger, a friend, a family member, whatever It needs to look like to get close to her. Hugh warns her that if she lets this thing catch her, it will kill her, and then go after him again. The safest thing to do is to pass on the curse before it’s too late.
Jay’s friends don’t believe this story at first, but they try to keep a close eye on her to make sure she’s okay. All of them, including Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Kelly (Lili Sepe), Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and her neighbor, Greg Hannigan (Daniel Zovatto) even decide to set out looking for Hugh, in order to prove to Jay that none of this stuff is real. However, after finding and talking to him, they realize that it’s even more real than they could’ve ever imagined.
As innovative as this film is, with its retro feel and use of old-school horror film elements to achieve its goal, one of the drawbacks of it lies in its character development. Jay’s friends, and arguably every other character besides her, lack a certain dynamic. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they do a good job of acting frightened and concerned, it feels as though pieces of the story are missing. The only other character that receives a little bit more depth is Paul, and that’s due to his infatuation with Jay. Mitchell relies on small details and metaphors to create something different, but perhaps the main detail he was missing was a developed cast.
In addition to the characters, some of the plot points are left a bit too ambiguous, such as the rules of what “It” can and cannot do and the usual “where the parents are throughout this whole movie” that a horror movie has to deal with at some point. Some things are just not explained, such as the relationship between Jay and Paul and scenes that seem to have been thrown in for an easy scare, without really fitting into the plot. Even the ending appears to have been left a bit too open-ended, despite the fact that the director was going for something speculative.
It Follows certainly received a lot of hype from screenings at film festivals and Rotten Tomatoes, and it lives up to that hype, mostly. But it isn’t perfect. One thing I can promise you, though, is that you’ll be looking over your shoulder and finding yourself running away from slow walkers for at least a day or two after watching it.
Featured Image Courtesy of Northern Lights Films