Review by Sam Paulson
From the April 2015 Issue
It Follows presents the viewer with a simple scenario. A shape-shifting entity stalks the bearer of it’s sexually transmitted curse until either they pass it on to another or are killed by the shadowy pursuer. The film doesn’t rely on jump scares like many of its modern kin; the fear comes from the inevitable. It’s the fact that no matter where you are, it is always walking towards you. You can run, but you can’t hide.
The true star of It Follows is the sound. The soundtrack is comprised of intense and dark electronic music by Disasterpeace and the influence of recent films like Drive and You’re Next can be felt in the style and application of the musical choice.
The film blatantly shows these influences, but it manages to use these recognizable pieces to create something new. But the sound is not the only thing It Follows seems to borrow. The color scheme is also heavily inspired by Drive. It’s beautiful to look at; juxtaposing dark and ominous tones with vibrant and abundant neon hues (which appear both in the lighting and in characters’ clothing). An equally noticeable influence on the film is John Carpenter’s Halloween. The fear one gets from seeing Michael Myers standing ominously in the background is recreated many times throughout the movie when we see the creature walking towards the unaware characters. All throughout the mayhem, the suburban setting also functions as being very reminiscent of Halloween.
Now would be a good time to address a big question raised by this movie: What is it’s message? Sex is a very heavy theme in It Follows; much heavier than I initially thought it would be. A notable indication of this is the fact that the monster appears numerous times as a naked man or woman. After seeing the film, a friend of mine said she thought it was a metaphor for AIDS. At one point in time, I might have agreed, however HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it was in the early 90’s. I think that if it is indeed an allegory for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, then it is extremely outdated. The risk of STD’s in general, however, is a more believable message in the film. But, while I believe this is a better argument than that concerning the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I don’t think it is what the movie is trying to say. In fact, I am not sure that the film really has a definite message. I think that overall, it is trying to materialize the fears that young people associate with sex. While this is broad, it is the best I can offer, as I didn’t feel a core message watching the film.It Follows’ message may be a little muddy, but the scares are still on point. David Robert Mitchell masters the horror of negative space. The scariest moments in the film involve the characters staring at doorways, not knowing if the creature will appear. These sequences are some of the most suspenseful in recent memory. However, this potential falls off halfway through the movie when the “curtain is raised”. I won’t say anything beyond this to avoid spoilers, but the second half of the film has a very different tone than the first one. As far as influences go, this second half feels closer to You’re Next than Halloween; dipping into horror/action elements and causing the suspense created by the negative space of the first half to take a back seat. The fear of the unknown fades out as we learn more about the creature and this knowledge ultimately builds to a confrontation at the end of the film.
Another pair of strengths lie in the film’s mise-en-scene and cinematography. The shots are all well composed and as stated earlier, the director makes good use of negative space to strengthen the horror. Panning shots are also used often throughout the film to show us the whole situation. As it pans, we see the creature in the background approaching, as the characters walk around, oblivious to the impending danger. By teasing us with this distant danger, the film only increases the amount of suspense we feel. While many of the shots may not actively create suspense, almost every scene in this film is gorgeous to look at; the melancholy suburb taken to new heights and transformed into a piece of artwork.
While watching I noticed a few minor mistakes that took me out of an otherwise immersive experience. None of these mistakes are major faults, but all of them are distracting and most likely could have been fixed. The first of which is the ambiguity of the time period. The characters dress as if they are from the 90’s and watch a black and white TV, but they also use kindles. I realize that they are likely just hipsters, but the addition is somewhat unnecessary and I feel the film could have easily fixed this instead of leaving it and creating confusion among it’s viewers. Another inconsistency is a scene in which the creature stands on a roof and stares at the main characters. How did it get on the roof if it has been shown to not have any superhuman powers? Why is it standing still when it was said to always be moving? While these are small nitpicks they remove the viewer from an immersive experience.
Overall, It Follows is a very good film. The scares are good, the soundtrack is catchy, and the scenes are beautiful and interesting. It is one of the best horror films of the decade so far; a must see for any horror fan while being accessible enough for anyone who’s not.
4 out of 5 stars