It Follows July 30, 2015
The first time watched Halloween all the way back in October 2012, Halloween night, to be exact. I was 15 years old, had never considered myself to be a horror fan, and didn’t have a clue what made the film such a hit among slasher buffs. Midway through the harrowing climax, my sister, who had gone out trick-or-treating all night, crept up to the living room’s back window and banged on the pane as hard as she could. That should have been the fright of my life, but Halloween, as it turns out, is so scary that a quick jolt hardly compares to the lasting disturbia of its nuts and bolts.
Everything about it is straight out of a hyper-realistic nightmare you might have had after a night of anxiety attacks — the score, the acting, and, of course, the sight of Michael Myers’ mask, are still enough to make me collapse in a puddle of yesterday’s confidence. And despite the fact that the film is really and truly an exercise in horror, the scene that has lasted with me the longest is the final scene, which, after a few seconds of regrouping, cuts to a shot of Laurie Strode’s lawn from the view of the balcony. There, the body of Michael Myers (recently shot) should have been strewn. But after barely recovering from her attack, Laurie peers over the ledge and finds him gone. On the loose. Ready to kill. Again.
When putting my movie watching history into consideration, ambiguity is the tool that seems to make a horror movie work for me. My personal favorite, The Blair Witch Project, was such a masterpiece because the fear was never fully explained, despite seeing monstrosity after monstrosity occur before our very eyes; and in other excellent works, such as The Innocents or The Babadook, the villain on the prowl is kept invisible, while we melt in fear over the mental deterioration that befalls its protagonist.
Horror is one of the few genres that rarely seems to work — because the main goal is to scare, much of the plot points have a similar air, even the gems ringing with a sort of depressing familiarity. And considering the genre has been around since the 1920s, it seems to be, especially as of late, increasingly difficult to make a chiller completely new and completely disturbing.
Finally, we have a mood piece worthy of the hype: It Follows is one of the best, if not the best, horror movie of the 2010s. It takes the best of Carpenter, the most subdued of Argento, and the ghostliest of Romero and makes for the most outrightly ominous terror train of recent years. It sticks with you — no, scratch that: it follows you — for much too long, individual scenes as impactful as the aforementioned finale sequence of Halloween. As of right now, it may be denoted as a terrifying indie sensation that pushed past its low-budget constraints and broke the ground. But in twenty years, it might be a golden egg horror buffs gaze upon like a stack of one-hundred dollar bills, the knight in shining armor that saved the genre from completely collapsing into hardly seen independent fare.
The monster stalking the premises is not an axe wielding murderer or a snaggletoothed demon but a soulless entity who menaces a victim at a time. The victim in It Follows is Jay Height (the wonderful Maika Monroe), a blonde college student whose life is turned upside down after spontaneously having sex with date. The guy (Jake Weary), it seems, did not undergo the act as a deed of passion but as one of necessity. He is being stalked by the previously mentioned ghoul, who follows him, like a zombie, wherever he goes.
Like an STD, the fiend seems to travel from victim to victim through intercourse — but if the person on the receiving end of the devilish transfer is killed, it goes right back to its previous owner. It’s a cycle of the most vicious quality, making life a living hell for anyone touched by the curse. Jay, a heroine in the same spirit as Laurie Strode and Dana Polk, isn’t content passably sitting like a helpless victim, doing everything she can to survive and figure out to end the problem, her clueless friends in tow.
In concept alone, It Follows is intriguing to the highest caliber, but execution is what makes a film what it is and David Cameron Mitchell is an auteur of enormous potential. Some scenes have the specificity of a severely darkened Wes Anderson flick, others drowned in uncomfortably colorful dread only found in the finest Bava. He’s intensely concerned about texture and sound — the tone, unrelentingly gutted by dread, is threatening enough to cause the Blair Witch to back off; the score, emulating Halloween and the chamber stealth of an Ennio Morricone scored giallo, sends a rippling effect of panic through the body.
If it were flatly shot, It Follows would still be frightening, but not as emotionally stimulating. Because Mitchell’s dynamic is so saturated and so eerie, we don’t solely jump in fright at the nearest cat-at-the-camera scare; we feel so blatantly terrorized that we become certain that maybe it’s following us.
Ghostly, stylish, and deliriously terrifying, It Follows is a classic in the making, a supernaturally subtle piece of uncompromising power. It renews what we’ve come to love about the horror genre, injecting much needed adrenaline in the long suffering brand. More, please. A