The new horror film, It Follows, starts with a 20-something girl running for her life in some affluent suburbs during the early post-dawn hours. She sees something. It’s following her, hence, the title of the movie. But, exactly what is a mystery. People ask the distraught girl “Are you okay?” as she runs by. They can’t see the “It” apparently right behind her. She runs into her house, ignores her father, gets her car keys, and drives away to her impending death.
So, what the hell is going on here? You don’t see many horror movies where people run from nothing. Where are the chainsaws and hockey masks?
Well, hang in there, because this movie creates a feeling and setting of unease that is almost unparalleled in other horror films. Especially those scream fests and slasher flicks.
We later meet Jay, a 19-year-old girl with a very typical life. She dates, lives with her parents, and attends night classes at the local community college. She’s super middle class. The homes in her neighborhood all have cracked driveways with old cars with peeling paint jobs. All the kids all grew up together, attended each others’ 10th birthdays, and were later each others’ first crushes, first kisses, and first times.
But Jay has a problem. She’s contracted a sexually-transmitted monster. Yes. That’s how the mysterious “It” creature decides to follow you. By having sex with the person it’s already following. And if it kills you, it continues back up the chain of your sex life, presumably until we’re all dead.
The creature can take any shape. Sometimes it’s a giant. Sometimes it’s a frightening face-mangled child. Other times it’s your sister. But it can only walk, slowly, incessantly, continually, as the crow flies, toward its next victim. You can fly 3,000 miles away, but eventually, it will traverse the distance and assault you.
It Follows is a low-budget movie. Very few special effects. Very little blood and gore. Just pure dread. And the level of sustained tension is quite addictive.
The characters take slow walks down suburban streets, dark windows drift by, shaded bushes. Anywhere can be a hiding place. People shamble by Jay, slowly, out of focus in the background. Are they the monster?
Several times, the monster is behind Jay, unbeknownst to her, each time narrowly escaping its mangling death grip. You’ll need a few minutes to catch your breath. After all, in a crowd of people, anyone is potentially “It”.
Once, while Jay is recumbent in a hospital recovering from a car accident, slow footsteps echoing down the deserted medical hallway create such a fear, you want to jump out of your seat. Is it the monster? You should go buy a ticket and find out.
I do want to point out the soundtrack of this film. It will not be ignored. Loud, abrasive, pulsating, and complete 80s-style synth. Just how a good horror movie should sound.
The characters are very believable. In fact, one boy, Paul, who has had a crush on Jay since they were children, wants to be her white knight by having sex with her, of course. Before you judge, this act will take the curse off her hands. I think most teenage boys in America could identify with the pitfalls and perils of that bargain with the Devil.
One annoying aspect of the film is the teens all talk in a low, bland and uninterested, Kim Kardashian-tone. You eventually get used to it. Or maybe this film just gives you the jitters and you forget to notice.
The film leaves you with a big question. This movie is about teenagers, having sex and being terrorized by a mysterious monster while absolutely no parents or cops get involved. We’ve seen this premise a thousand times.
But why is this film so successful at what it does? So spectacular? Why does it do these things so well, and still feel like a brand new concept?
I couldn’t recommend It Follows any more. If you love horror films – true horror – that hit you in the gut rather than the eyeballs, get in line. There’s even a creepy scene in a movie theater that makes you wonder could It be seated behind you.
And maybe this is my second criticism of the movie. When it was over, I felt sad. Even though this movie clocks in at about two hours, I still wanted about 30 more minutes of this terrifying ride.
When you finally get to see a perfect horror movie, you hate when the credits roll.