Review: IT FOLLOWS (2015){0}

Follow That!

“Originality is often overrated where horror films are concerned” is an opinion you may recognise if you read a lot of my horror film reviews, and my point is pretty simple: you can make a very good independent horror film if you focus on mood, style, presentation, and simple “quality control.” If your film is (yet another) haunted house story, but it still adheres to those basic guidelines, there’s a good chance that horror fans will appreciate it. The horror genre trades heavily on cliches, conventions, tropes, stereotypes, and archetypes, so it’s not exactly fair to knock a well-made thriller simply for being “unoriginal.”

Having said all that… man is it refreshing when someone actually DOES cook up an original idea for the horror crowd. Case in point: the excellent and admirably strange It Follows, which is the second feature from David Robert Mitchell (after The Myth of the American Sleepover), and easily one of the most creative, accomplished, and captivating indie horror films of the year. Oh, and it’s not about zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, monsters, or slashers. This is where that “originality” asset comes into play.

Perhaps most tantalisingly described as a thriller about a sexually-transmitted demon, It Follows is about a wonderfully “normal” group of suburban teens who slowly come to realize that one of their own is being stalked by… someone. All we know for sure is that poor sweet Jay (The Guest‘s Maika Monroe) is being stalked by an unearthly creature that can look like virtually anyone. Jay can drive a hundred miles to a distant cabin, but that demon is still headed in her direction. It cannot be stopped; it can only be avoided.

That the “shape-changing demon” is transmitted to Jay through a sexual liaison with her boyfriend gives It Follows an eclectic checklist of subtextual themes to pick through: how being promiscuous is very dangerous is a pretty obvious theme, but Mitchell’s subtly fantastic screenplay also delves into ideas about loyalty amongst friends and lovers, how firmly young people can actually rely on authority figures, and what happens after we breach “the friend zone,” but just keep trying. Basically, for a relatively brief and well-paced film in which there’s not a lot of “horror action,” It Followscovers more ground than most indie filmmakers even attempt when dabbling in scary stories.

Backed by a virtually flawless cast of young actors, and supported by first-time composer Rich Vreeland’s brilliant score (which is reminiscent of the ’80s-era throwback music found in Drive and Maniac), It Follows is not simply a good horror film. It’s that the film is so quietly compelling and confidently unique that it may serve to elevate the game across the board; anyone who makes horror films should be inspired by movies like It Follows… and then try to write something half this novel, creepy, and altogether fascinating.


Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)