Once in a while, an independent horror film strikes a chord with the general movie audience and makes the jump from the festival scene to the big screen. “It Follows” is one of the movies.
The “It Follows” story is actually simple in its premise; Jay is a young woman who gets involved with a boy named Jake and they eventually have a sexual encounter. Immediately after the encounter, Jake informs Jay she has been cursed. An evil force will continue to follow her wherever she goes and if that force catches you it will kill you. The force will cannot be stopped and will continue to pursue until you are dead. The only way to get the force to stop following you is to have sex with someone else. Jay soon slowly descends into a life of paranoia and fear as she tries to deal with this evil presence and the notion that the next person she has sex will be that person’s death sentence.
Writer and Director David Robert Mitchell has hit the ground running with his first feature film. He has put together a unique mixture of homages to classic horror films while adding his own originality. The very first thing that stood out to me was David’s direction and the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis. From the two-minute opening scene that was one tracking shot, to the use of wide shots, to the use of focus at times to hide the force that follows Jay, all are elements that you do not see in most wide release horror films. Modern horror fans will notice a lack of jump scares in “It Follows”. This is a good thing.
One of the issues I have always had with many of the wide release horror movies is their reliance on jump scares. “It Follows” shows that you can make a scary, creepy horror film just from creative use of focus, camera technique and editing, along with an eerie soundtrack. The score by Disasterpiece reminded me of John Carpenter’s early score for Halloween. It is used sparingly but effectively and adds another creepy level to the atmosphere. In a world where many films feel the need to fill every second with sound, this score is refreshing to the ears.
Maika Monroe’s performance as Jay helped sell the feeling of paranoia and fear to the audience. It felt genuine. What also felt genuine was her reluctance in some of her later decisions as she comes to terms with what she has to do to stop the evil force from getting to her. Unfortunately, I did not feel a strong chemistry between her and the rest of the cast. It wasn’t that the supporting cast gave poor performances, far from it. I just didn’t feel that connection between them like you would expect. This feeling of disconnect between the characters carries through most of the movie. Again, the characters themselves were well acted but the interactions between them were not strong.
The run time of the movie was a little overlong. It starts off strong and establishes itself quickly. but there are a few spots where nothing really happens. I realize the director may have been trying to have the audience feel the same anticipation that Jay had for the evil force to appear again, but it had me checking the clock a couple of times.
David Robert Mitchell does not spell everything out to the audience, which is something many modern film makers feel they have to do. There are a number of moments where the director begins a scene and then just ends it before you see the outcome. He allowed the audience to imagine what happened next rather than showing it. I think this helps keep the audience’s attention, plus the fact that what they imagine is far worse than what really happened.
“It Follows” is a prime example of why I have been a fan of independent films for many years. It is an original take on a classic theme that tries to have its own identity and I think it succeeds. This is a creepy, atmospheric horror film that will have mainstream moviegoers on the edge of their seats. It is better than any of the mass-produced studio horror that has come out in the past year and I hope it sparks more people’s interest in independent horror films. “It Follows” will definitely follow you after you leave the theater. I give it 4 out of 5 stubs.