by Patrick Bromley
It Follows, the sophomore effort from Myth of the American Sleepover writer/director David Robert Mitchell, is yet another horror film that I would encourage everyone to see before reading this review. Like so many movies coming out of the indie horror scene these days, it's best to go in knowing as little as possible. It's not because this is a movie of huge twists or surprises, but because it's about discovery. You can't discover something if you already know going in exactly what you'll find.
I'd even consider summarizing the plot spoiling some elements of the movie, so bear that in mind should you decide to keep reading. Anything from this point forward I would consider a spoiler, even if it's very mild plot description. Here goes. Maika Monroe (of The Guest) plays Jay, a Detroit teenager in the early stages of a relationship with nice guy Hugh (Jake Weary). One night they sleep together, and immediately afterwards Hugh drugs Jay and ties her to a chair. He explains to her that he is being pursued by...something...that wants to hurt him. It can take any form and it never stops coming. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to someone else through sex. It was passed to him, and now he has passed it along to Jay. From that point forward, Jay, her sister and her friends (including Keir Gilchrist of Dark Summer as the friend who still harbors a years-old crush on her) attempt to figure out what the thing is that's following her and how to stop it...if they can.
Even without subtextual readings, It Follows would be a great movie if only for its technique. Mitchell has created one of the best formalistic horror films in years, one which is unsettling and even sometimes terrifying because of the editing, the widescreen compositions, the relentless score by Rich Freeland, aka Disasterpeace (side note: while just a year ago a synth score in a horror film was a welcome throwback, the approach has become so commonplace that it has already worn out its welcome; having said that, I'm willing to make an exception in the case of this film). While I'm guessing the movie -- like almost every other indie horror film these days -- will be getting a VOD release, it really does deserve to be seen on the big screen. Every inch of the frame is used, often for its negative space -- like John Carpenter's original Halloween, what isn't there is often scarier than what is there.
Until what's there actually is there and then it's way scarier.
Because the movie has been playing festivals for close to a year now, there is no shortage of internet buzz surrounding it. Much of it has declared It Follows one of the best -- if not the best -- horror films of the last 20 years. Other writing has already assigned it "overrated" status or accused the film of being simply repetitive; while there might be merit to that characterization, I might replace the word with "relentless." The best thing you can do is tune all of it out, the good and the bad, and see the film on its own terms. Our current discourse is so desperate to build up the next big thing and tear down that which came before that things get hyperbolic pretty quickly. Don't let expectations play too large a role in your own reactions. If the movie works on you, let it work without having to compare and contrast it with every other horror movie.
The Babadook, I suspect It Follows is going to be a polarizing movie -- one which experiences a bit of blowback based largely on how hyped up it has been already. But also like The Babadook, it's a movie that works brilliantly in the moment (better, actually, in that it's a much scarier and immediate film -- it captures a real nightmare quality of being chased when you don't know why and you can't get away) but gives us something to think about long after it's over. It grabs us, shakes us for 90 minutes and rattles us to the core, but even then won't let us go. It follows.
It Follows is currently playing in limited release and is scheduled to expand to more theaters on Friday, March 20. See it.