There was a bit of a stir about It Follows when it came out a little while back.
It happens occasionally. Horror is, by and large, a looked-down-upon genre amongst many film critic circles, but occasionally some of the magic gets through. As in the case of It Follows, from the look of it; something which gets the mechanics right on the one level, and the deeper meaning on another.
Of course, there’s always a danger. The “meaningful” can easily become dull, and lose any sort of actual relevance. Walking the tightrope is a difficult task. Is It Follows up to it?
After a sexual encounter, Jay (Maika Monroe) finds herself passed a curse: a creature only she can see will follow her relentlessly, until it kills her or she passes it on to someone new.
There is a lot going on here, and in a neat, well-constructed package. The basic premise is heavily bound up with a lot of the classic teen horror films of the 90s in particular. Monster pursuing protagonist, everyone else not believing it. With the strain of sex mixed in, it’s like a deconstruction of the genre. Even the hints towards sexually transmitted diseases
And if that were it, then this would be a very short review — I gather most are pretty familiar with the genre tropes, especially since Scream dissected them pretty mercilessly a long way back. But what we have here is actually an excellent horror film, which felt to me like a break with the softly-softly-BOO idea which so many have embraced of late — not, I stress, always to detriment.
The genius, to me, here is the fact that the titular “it” walks. It doesn’t run, it doesn’t even properly chase. What it does, unsurprisingly, is follow. At, actually, a very slow speed. But it’s the relentlessness of that following which most terrifies. No matter how far Jay and her initially disbelieving friends run, it always catches up sooner or later.
Added to that, the only way that she can escape it is to inflict it upon someone else. When one of her friends volunteers to take it on, it…well, it ends badly. It’s the grey morality of the situation, which touches upon conceptions of consent, which really give the depth to the story. Even the end solution, hinted at in a series of dialogue-less vignette scenes, feels a bit grubby.
What I really liked, also, was the fact that it doesn’t feel the need to ram a folder full of backstory down the audience’s throat. It was a bit heavy on the history between Jay and her friend Paul (Kier Gilchrist), but that was the extent of it. The deep, psychological analysis of what “it” is and represents was left to the inference of the viewer, resulting in a delightful gamut of interpretations as everyone reads their own understandings onto it.
As it should be, basically.
Rather, the plot, the acting and especially the music and cinematography come together in a beautiful display of storytelling, which digs a lot deeper beneath the skin of society and interpersonal relationships than a lot of other films, which make the appearance of trying a lot harder at it.
The reason, I think, that I like this film so much is that it digs at the splinter in my mind of real fear. Of something which doesn’t feel the need to hurry, which won’t stop, which comes for you sooner or later. The idea of the inescapable nature of death is close to the surface here, as is the need to run. Truth is, all of us have our curse, and whether we see it or not, it’s always following us.