To me, “It Follows” was to 2015 as “Honeymoon” was to 2014; an infinitely creepy horror movie deserving of the attention many low-budget movies don’t always get. It’s a mesmerizing and terrifying piece of work which invites comparison to some of John Carpenter’s best films, and it’s smart enough not to reveal every single detail of its story. Like the best Hitchcock classics, it strings you along to where you keep guessing as to what’s behind the cinematic madness all the way to the very last frame.
“It Follows” opens up on a teenage girl fleeing her home in terror, and we’re not sure why. The next day she is found murdered and her body is contorted in ways which make it look like a yoga exercise gone horribly wrong. From there we meet Jay Height (Maika Monroe) who swims alluringly in the family swimming pool, and it’s hard not to be sucked into her realm as a result. After making out with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), he renders Jay unconscious and takes her to an abandoned building where he says he has passed on a curse to her. As a result, an entity which can only be seen by those who have been cursed will follow them, and once they are dead it will go after the person who gave it to them.
It’s an ingenious concept for any horror movie as this is the kind of curse which doesn’t invite an easy explanation. We can’t be sure of what the curse is, and as a result our imagination runs wild with endless possibilities as to how it can appear to us. Now I know a lot of moviegoers are desperate to have everything explained to them, and they will probably have serious issues with “It Follows” as a result, but I loved how this is a film which keeps its secrets close to the vest as revealing any of them could make the whole endeavor fall apart irrevocably.
This is only the second film from writer/director David Robert Mitchell whose previous credit was “The Myth of the American Sleepover.” I liked how he just immerses us into the lives of these young characters to where he has the viewer in a trance. It’s certainly one of the most atmospheric horror films I have seen in a while, and even the cheap scares thrown in have a stronger impact here than they do in the average scary flick.
Mitchell has given us a horror film with real down-to-earth characters which is very commendable as this genre usually benefits from having the opposite kind. Horror movies these days are typically reduced to having one-dimensional characters to where you find yourself rooting endlessly for the masked villain to decapitate them in the worst way possible, but this is not the case here. As a result, the horror feels a lot more real as these characters fight to escape from a deadly force only they can see.
Mitchell also has a very strong cast to work with as well. Chief among them is Maika Monroe who plays the movie’s main protagonist, Jay Height. Monroe was terrific in the criminally underrated thriller “The Guest,” and she succeeds in giving us a strong female heroine who is vulnerable but not too vulnerable to let this evil spirit take her down. Strong performances also come from Keir Gilchrist as Paul, Jay’s friend who has a not-so-secret crush on her, Lili Sepe as Jay’s sister Kelly, Daniel Zovatto as Greg Hannigan, and Olivia Luccardi as Yara.
In addition, “It Follows” features a very cool and utterly visceral electronic score courtesy of Disasterpiece. I grew up on the electronic scores of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, and I think it’s great this kind of film music is making a comeback in movies like this, “The Guest” and “Ex Machina.” Disasterpiece has created a memorable score which is at times lovely and thoughtful, and at other times highly unnerving as it goes out of its way to sound like it will overload your stereo speakers with no mercy.
Mitchell only had a budget of $2 million to make “It Follows” with, and he certainly made the most of it because the movie looks like it cost so much more. Also, he got to film it in Detroit, Michigan, a city which, despite its problems, has proven to have a very unique look other American cities do not possess. This is a wonderfully creepy, suspenseful and terrifying movie which stands out among many others in its genre, and it leaves the viewer with a lasting impression as the ending makes clear the terror is far from over. And I don’t just say this because RADiUS-TWC, the company that distributed it, is already thinking about a sequel.
It says a lot about a movie which manages to maintain a strong level of suspense and tension from start to finish, and “It Follows” is just the latest example of that kind of cinematic experience which, these days, no longer feels all that rare to us.
* * * * out of * * * *