31 Days of Horror: IT FOLLOWS

A young girl is pursued endlessly by a supernatural being after a sexual encounter passes it onto her. A ghostly STD, if you will. The creature takes on the shapes and forms of other people, stalking relentlessly down a daisy chain of consensual sex, with the view of mutilating and murdering its quarry, before moving to the next target.

Pros

  • A tense and terse love letter to 80’s cinema, with an astounding sound track and low-fi vibe.
  • It focuses on creeping horror and existential dread rather than over the top gut spillages. The moments of violence hit hard, however.
  • Taking place mostly during the day, it creates a new kind of monster, and a horror that will spill into your every day life.

Cons

  • It’s pacy and obtuse, with on the nose dialogue and pontificating readings from classic literature to smash you across the skull with its themes.
  • The actors serve their purpose and their characters, but nobody is going to win an Oscar for any of the chops on display.
  • The final showdown is fairly redundant, hitting home a point we’ve seen established several times already.

Overall

It Follows has propelled director David Robert Mitchell to indie stardom, and rightly so. Before long, he’ll be directing Insidious 5 or Paranormal Activity 27, but for now, let’s focus on his low-budget slice of horror brilliance. It Follows stars Maika Monroe, who’s turn in The Guest and in this flick have put her name on the lips of many a Hollywood producer, too.

Shot with grace and a love of the slow, wide show, It Follows belies horror convention by showing you everything a great deal of the time. Rather than focusing on an extreme close up of the sexy teen who is moments from death and a jump scare for the audience, It Follows focuses on the wide spaces. A beach front, a public park, a high school, nowhere is safe from the titular “It”, and that’s the essential genius of the film. The supernatural entity takes on the form of other people, and will slowly approach its prey, killing it when it makes content, before moving down the chain of sexual partners. If you die, it’ll move back to the person who passed it to you, and so on, for eternity.

It Follows will create a horrible, creeping dread in you, both during its short running time, and in real life. The wide shots allow you to see other people approaching, unknown to our heroine, Jay. Are they the monster, or is it just an old lady out for a leisurely walk? You never know until it’s too late. A tense ending in an empty swimming pool compounds multiple fears in one, being trapped near a creepy body of water being chased by invisible prey that only you can see. After watching, you’ll find yourself afraid of everyone in real life. You can’t help but wonder, what if “It” is real? What if my partner had it without knowing? What if that guy or girl from the bar last week had it? If you’re a virgin, then here’s a flag you can wave. You might not be getting it, but “It” won’t be getting you either.

The STD metaphor isn’t exactly subtle, but it’s interesting. Especially with the 80’s vibe of the movie, it’s interesting to see “It” as an allegory for HIV/AIDs. A disease that you don’t know until you have, until perhaps it’s too late. An illness transmitted from someone who you’re sharing intimacy, love, or animal lust with. From someone who means you no harm and you mean no harm to them.

It’s a terrifyingly tense and unique film that reflects on the essential fear of intimacy, sex, and death that permeates our society. Sex is the only means of prolonging our race, and a bittersweet escape from life and death by the ecstasy it affords. Sex sells, but it also kills, as in It Follows, and as in real life. It’s another horror that’ll set a feeling deep in the pit your stomach that has nothing to do with the usual disgust that follows buckets of claret being spilled.

Cover image via

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