It Follows

Nerve wrecking and unpredictable, It Follows is a highly effective Indie horror film that should become a cult classic.

What constitutes true cinematic horror? Is it really blood, gore and jump scares, or grotesque monsters and malevolent spirits? How about an unfathomable fear of the unknown? Built on the chassis of 70s and 80s horror classics, It Follows is such a visceral horror film that it instantly redefines the very rules of the genre. And by doing so, it reaches its destination very early and refuses to budge, where needless to say, the destination is none other than a thin layer under your skin!

If by now you have noticed my frequent use of the word ‘It’, I can tell that this film is really going to make your skin crawl. You see, writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s story is based on a classic horror template of cause and effect, where the consequence is certain death. But unlike previous horror films where characters must outrun a monster or vengeful ghost just to stay alive, Mitchell’s fright mechanism is intensely creepier than scare tactics used in a variety of modern horror films. Using the intimidating chain-letter as a theoretical setup, Mitchell’s premise is a hex that manifests into a life threatening situation after a sexual encounter. Jay (Maika Monroe from last year’s sleeper hit, The Guest), is the latest ‘victim’ to have received a sexually transmitted curse after a night out with Hugh (Jake Weary). Left dazed and confused, all Jay knows (or is allowed to know), is that unless she sleeps with another person (and thus pass on the curse), she will be relentlessly hunted and ultimately killed by the titular “It”.

Starting with the intentionally obscure but highly suggestive title, Mitchell’s genius is in never revealing what ‘It’ really is. Is ‘It’ extraterrestrial or paranormal? We don’t know for sure and neither does Jay or her teenage friends who come to her rescue. Why, how and from where are other questions that are left unanswered, inflicting more panic when we see ‘It’ approaching in human form. Speaking of which, only the victim and the audience can see the approach, which most of the time starts as a blurry figure on either corner of the screen. But Mitchell doesn’t stop there. The entire film has a retro look and feel, and if it were not for one character’s hand-held device, viewers could be mistaken into thinking this film was set in the late 1960s. Using this setting and significantly adding to the mounting tension is an electronic soundtrack that is as unforgivable as cinematographer Mike Gioulakis’ panning and zooming, further wreaking havoc on the viewer’s nerves. It works by manifesting an unnerving sense of claustrophobia when there’s everywhere to run but nowhere to hide.

As an original and highly effective indie horror film, It Follows bucks the trend in cheap clichés with stellar technical achievements, the slow build-up of mood and a terrifying atmosphere throughout. Then there’s ample pause for thought on a metaphorical layer mask that you don’t see at first. In context, it’s like a painful or embarrassing shard of memory you’ve kept locked away since those turbulent adolescent years. And even if you come out with nerves intact, you still have to deal with those sexual skeletons you may have been harboring in the closet. It Follows may not be the best film of the year, but it’s definitely a horror fan’s dream come true. For the true horror connoisseur, perhaps even a bed-wetting nightmare!

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.