Sometimes the scariest things are simple, and in the case of It Follows, something as simple as seeing a person walk towards you can become the scariest damn thing imaginable.
For those not familiar with the concept of the film, I’ll quickly fill you in on the details. There’s a curse of sorts that exists, and there is no way to break it, it can only be passed. The curse is more or less a supernatural STD, where the victim is cursed via intercourse with the accursed, and it’s ‘passed on.’ Of course this doesn’t end things once someone dies. The curse merely kills its victim, then goes down the line of people who’ve spread the curse, all the way back down to whoever the original curser is. Or was? The curse itself is never mentioned by name or given any explicit title, even one as basic as “the curse”, as I’ve given it for the purpose of this review. That’s not to say there isn’t a curse, because there most definitely is one, and it’s nasty.
A lot of movie reviews will say a movie taps into some kind of primal terror, but rarely does a movie hit the spot like this does. There is something spooky about being followed. There are those moments in real life where we wonder if the person walking towards us has ill intentions. This movie presents the concept of living your life that way, in that permanent moment of paranoia and doubt, right up until your brutal supernatural death. I imagine women in particular who’ve been followed by creeps on the street, will find it especially scary. Which is to say, that obviously, the entire movie is one big rape metaphor, and a damned terrifying one that will probably go over a lot of people’s heads, despite being very obvious. No doubt there will be a lot of internet tough guys who think the movie isn’t scary, and they ‘would have totally punched that ghost thing, bro.’ The Supernatural STD is such a good idea for a horror film, I’m shocked it hasn’t been used before, and no, Cronenbergian Body Horror doesn’t count.
I won’t go into any more details of the plot of the film, because the film is effective at what it does, and that’s generate suspense in spades. It’s an effective mix of techniques of old, and innovations of new. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, any John Carpenter fan should notice his considerable influence on the film, with the haunting synth soundtrack and cinematography that rivals Carpenter in his prime. The real meat of the movie is all predicated on your preference of fear and how that affects you. There’s a growing sect of moderate to casual horror movie fans that aren’t going to appreciate the methodical and subtle nature of dread in this movie, which is a shame, since I haven’t seen a film so successfully build dread in ages. Suspense and dread are hard to things to find in modern horror, and accordingly, don’t seem to be as popular with mainstream audiences. This isn’t the part where I trash Insidious or the Paranormal Activity movies, because I like those movies too, they’re just so different from this kind of movie, that comparing this to other modern horror films doesn’t seem accurate. Nonetheless, it is definitely a horror film. There’s no shade to be thrown at others movies in light of this, no sign to point and declare “Here! Here it’s being done right!”, because so many horror films are being done right, right now. There was a time when I thought that cell phones, and the way horror movies had to write around them, would kill the whole genre. However, there’s been a wonderful renaissance of horror as a genre within the last half decade, and movies like It Follows show that shouldn’t be changing anytime soon.
If anything, this proves the horror genre is alive and well, can rise above its clichéd strappings of the past, and show that innovation and technique can still be utilized to tell a truly haunting story about Murder-Ghost-RapeAIDS. Which I mean, isn’t that all we can ask for really?
It Follows (starring Maika Monroe) is in theaters now and releases on VOD on March 27.
Images: RADiUS-TWC, Entertainment Weekly