Have you ever had the feeling that you’re being watched?
That somehow, somewhere, someone (or something) is watching you? And that, maybe, just maybe, they’re coming…slowly…towards you?
Well, have I got the film for you! You might have heard of a little indie horror flick called It Follows, which made quite a stir on the indie horror circuit earlier this year.
I have several things to say about this film, starting with the title. It Follows is a fantastic name for a horror movie, creepy and ominous without spoiling anything. It’s a title that conveys more dread and mystery than many entire movies. It’s such a great title that I didn’t even have to think of a title for this post, the movie did that for me.
And the film lives up to the title. The main character of It Follows is Jay (short for Jamie), who, after hooking up with her new boyfriend in the back of his car one night, finds herself being stalked by an unknown presence that only she can see.
But wait, let’s back up a bit. The movie takes place in Anytown, USA, in a sleepy, nondescript neighborhood. The film opens with a young woman running out of her house. She appears to be running from something, but we don’t see what. Her dad asks her if she’s okay, and she says yes, although it’s clear that she is anything but okay. She gets into her car and drives away unsteadily. She drives to the beach and her dad calls her, and she tells him she loves him.
In the morning, she is dead.
We then meet Jay, who swims around lazily in the pool in her backyard. She is very pretty, and a couple boys next door spy on her. Jay goes on a date with her new boyfriend Hugh, who acts a little strangely when he appears to see someone Jay can’t see, but tries to pass it off as just not feeling well. Jay thinks this is odd but doesn’t think too much about it, and a few days later, the two of them hook up in the back of his car. Afterward, Hugh drugs her unconscious.
Uh-oh. But it’s not what you might think. Jay wakes up tied to a wheelchair, and Hugh tells her that something will start following her. It used to be following him, but he passed It on to her, and the only way she can get rid of It is to sleep with someone else. Even though It is not following him anymore since he passed It on to her, Hugh can still see It. It appears in the form of a naked woman walking slowly, inexorably, towards Jay. Jay freaks out and Hugh lets her see It long enough for her to believe what he’s told her, and then wheels her away and drives her home, while warning her multiple times not to let It get to her, and to pass it on to someone else as soon as she can.
Jay is clearly traumatized by the experience, but there’s not much the police can do, since she tells them it was consensual. She recovers, and a few days later at school, she looks out the window and sees an old woman coming slowly towards her. No one else seems to see the woman, and Jay leaves class in a hurry. The old woman follows her, and no one else can see her. Terrified and completely convinced of what Hugh has told her, she goes home.
From there, the movie becomes one terrifying encounter with It after another, with each encounter increasing in intensity. David Robert Mitchell, who wrote and directed the film, builds tension expertly and creates an overwhelming sense of paranoia and dread throughout the film.
This is a horror movie in which the antagonist is not a masked killer or a hulking monster, It appears only as people, walking slowly. And while people walking slowly might not sound all that scary, think about it for a second. You can’t stop It, you can’t outrun It, you can only buy yourself time, because eventually, when you let your guard down, It will catch up to you, and when it does…well, I’ll let you fill in the rest.
And think about how unsettling it would be to always have someone following you. And not even running after you, just…walking. Think of how paranoid you would get, how you would always be looking over your shoulder, never being able to relax or let your guard down. Not only would it be terrifying, it would be exhausting, both physically and mentally. And eventually, you would just get worn down, and then…It will get you.
This is such a great idea for a horror movie. I just love it. It Follows is much more low-key than most horror films these days, and in my opinion it’s a movie that is vastly more unsettling than any generic masked killer slaughtering horny teenagers in the woods.
The movie is helped by a strong central performance. Jay is played by Maika Monroe, who also starred in The Guest, another recent indie hit that I’m a big fan of (and wrote about a few months ago). She’s very good in the role of a person coming slowly unglued, and is a likable protagonist, although admittedly some of the supporting characters are a little bland. But Monroe really does a great job anchoring the movie.
Another one of the film’s strongest aspects is the music, which is kind of electronic, kind of synth-y (if that makes sense), and evokes classic 70’s and 80’s John Carpenter movies like Halloween and The Thing, and also has a retro video game kind of feel. It’s really great, atmospheric and intense, and heightens the movie’s plentiful scares while also being memorable in its own right. You can find some of it on YouTube, and if you’re a fan of old-school horror movies and video games you’ll probably get a kick out of it.
Another interesting aspect of this film is that there is never any explanation about the antagonist. There is no indication as to what It is, where It came from, or anything of that sort. It’s very tantalizing to think about where It might have come from, and adds another layer to the movie’s mythology.
If it’s not apparent by now, I really like It Follows. Fans of other modern horror movies might not like it so much since it’s slowly paced and places more emphasis on psychological scares rather than gore. But to me it’s far creepier than those kinds of movies. It gets under your skin and stays there, and might just have you looking over your shoulder when you’re walking down a darkened street or hallway.
Happy Halloween everybody!