Around a month ago my Facebook feed blew up about a new horror film. Weirdly enough, it was all of my British friends raving about some film called It Follows. I quickly went on the hunt for the trailer, and knew the film was right up my alley. I was surprised to find out that it was an American film. Once again, every country but us gets our own film first, and from what I can gather, we almost didn’t get this independent horror film in theaters.
I had the pleasure of going into It Follows not only spoiler-free, but I was also lucky enough to be seeing it in a dark theater all by myself. Jay is your typical 19 year old girl. She hangs out with her sister and two best friends, and has just started dating a really great guy. They end up having sex after yet another date, but as she tells him about her dreams in life, he chloroforms her and she wakes up strapped to a chair. He informs her that he has passed something onto her, “IT” will follow her, and IT can be anyone, someone she has never met, or even her best friend. If IT catches her she will die and it will then move back to hunting him, so he suggests that she passes it on. He shows her this creature, which at this point is a wet, naked girl, and quickly dumps her at home and disappears.
All of that is in the trailer, and sets up the film perfectly. It’s one part Halloween, this being the stalking, just out of sight observing IT. It’s one part Nightmare on Elm Street as only Jay can see this creature as it hunts her. Ultimately, this is The Ring, but instead of a VHS tape, it’s a haunted STD. Yes, it sounds kind of dumb, but yet I was intrigued and drawn into the world the film builds.
One thing I found interesting is that I couldn’t place a time period of when the film was taking place. At times I thought it was present day, mainly due to the compact that her best friend uses, but then I realized that there was nothing but tube TVs, and outside of the opening scene, no one has a cell phone. Of course, our cast aren’t the rich kids we typically see. Instead, they are average kids that almost anyone could relate to. They don’t always make smart choices but when craziness is happening, would you?
Director David Robert Mitchell has a very clear vision in his mind, and I have to say that this is one of the most beautifully shot horror films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not the same type of pretty as, say, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, but as I watched this film I constantly thought, “I hate this guy because these shots are fucking gorgeous”. I’m sure a lot of it also comes from cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, whose filmography is made up almost entirely of short films, but there are so many tight shots where the lighting, shadows and everything else is just breathtaking. There’s one scene where the gang has arrived at a house to look for clues. A typical film would pick a character to zoom in on, but instead, the camera sits there on the street and we watch Jay stare at the house, and her friends just go about trying to find a way in, all in one still shot, and it looks completely natural.
While It Follows doesn’t offer the typical scares one might expect from a psychological horror film, it does offer one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a horror film since the original Halloween (yes, I went there). Rich Vreeland does the theme and score here, both of which fit the film and each setting, never using itself to jolt us, but to make us uneasy as we already know something is going to happen, just never what that might be. You might know Vreeland from his work on an indie game known as Fez.
It Follows is by far the best looking and sounding horror film in at least fifteen years. The story, while original in theory, is ultimately The Ring with a different form of transmitting itself. This isn’t a bad thing, and as I watched the film, I was trying to figure out how these guys were going to win. I won’t ruin anything, but I was ultimately let down by the films finale, which while intense, left me scratching my head as I wasn’t seeing what they were trying to do or why they thought it would work.
Sadly, I left the theater a little let down. I was never scared or freaked out, something The Ring was able to do, and I was seeing this is in a large, dark theater, by myself, and with the phone fully off. It Follows has its moments where it gets intense, and it’s a beautiful film, but it feels shallow, which is a shame. It’s definitely a slow burn in the same vein as Halloween, but don’t go in expecting people dying left and right. The gore is really tame, and the “R” rating is only due to all of the nudity.