“Sometimes the allure of a good tale is the simple fact of not knowing everything.”
We can all agree that the horror genre is becoming fairly cliched across the board. Ghosts that haunt us, demons that possess us, and murderers that chase us up the stairs when we should be running out the door (I’m looking at you, ladies) but what happens when it’s more than just a girl that comes out of the television? What happens if the only way to get rid of the creepy thing that chases you is to pass it along to someone else in the most intimate act possible? Once more, what happens if that’s not enough? And no matter what, you’re doomed to constantly be looking over your shoulder?
This, in a nutshell, is It Follows: the 2014 mystery horror film both written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, and newly added to Netflix this past month.
At a modest runtime of only one hour and forty minutes, It Follows promises not to take up too much of your time. The plot develops at a moderate pace, never leaving you completely bored but never being action packed enough to have you sitting at the edge of your seat either. It Follows is more of a slow burn, gently folding layers over the story that are so paper thin you might not even realize that they’re there at times, but leaving you in abject tense silence throughout the majority of the film.
The story follows Jay Height, played by Maika Monroe. After sleeping with the boy she’s been dating for some time, she wakes up to find she has been chloroformed, tied to a chair, and informed that something is going to be following her. It can take the form of anyone, people she knows and those she doesn’t. She mustn’t let it touch her, and if it gets to her it will kill her. The movie opens with a taste of this already, showing a young woman who apparently is having her first (and what will be her last) run in with the creature that follows. The scene ends with her having a weepy conversation with her parents, and opens later on her mutilated corpse on the sandy beaches of – I think – Lake Erie.
The rest of the movie is Jay and her friends: sister Kelly, friend Paul who holds a heavy childhood crush on Jay, nerdy Yara, and older heartthrob grungy neighbor Greg trying to get ahead of whatever It is while also trying to figure out how they can release Jay from it’s deadly clutches.
The good news is this isn’t a typical teenage slasher. Jay is the only one that can see the creature (only those whom have been “infected” can see it), yet while her friends are unbelieving, albeit concerned, they provide emotional support by sleeping over at her house, standing guard, and driving her to the outskirts of town to gain some distance on this unknown adversary.
This includes a trek to a lakeside cottage where the friends hang out, Greg teaches Jay how to shoot a gun, and a slim sense of false security blankets the mood until eventually It in the form of Yara sneaks up and grabs Jay by the hair, revealing that she is in fact not crazy to her onlooking friends as they see this occur. Paul is…scratched? And Jay flees in Greg’s car, ending up in the hospital after accidentally running off the road.
With few alternatives left to her, Jay gives in and passes It to Greg while in the hospital in hopes to one, leave herself less vulnerable while bedridden, and two, hoping to leave her slightly at ease if nothing ever does actually come for him. This relief is short lived however, and Jay eventually finds herself on the run, hatching a half baked plan with her remaining friends to rid them all of It once and for all. Whether this works is best left to the interpretation of the viewer, but I will recommend that upon the final scene taking one very close look at the background and see if you see something stumbling after Jay and newly infected Paul.
This movie takes a very interesting look at adult themes without making them seem tasteless, and both the overarching theme as well as the underlying hints and curious details really make this film worthy of at least one secondary viewing before deciding whether or not you like it. The world that Robert David Mitchell paints here is a strange one, similar in style to The Babadook in which the horror itself isn’t what’s frightening, but instead the overlying psychological impact of what’s happening to the characters in the story.
Probably the most enticing mystery of It Follows is just what exactly It is. Like the word “zombie” in The Walking Dead, It is never called a ghost or a demon. In fact, that seems to be a non existent concept in this world of 1970s era fashion and cars, early 2000s cell phones, and e-readers straight from The Little Mermaid. We, just like the teens, have no idea what It is or how It works, save that in order to avoid being killed by it you have to pass it on by sleeping with someone else. Rumor has it that this mystery is leaving a wake for It Follows 2, but frankly I’d prefer that we leave that element of the story alone. Sometimes the allure of a good tale is the simple fact of not knowing everything.
So with that being said, the ultimate question: is It Follows a great movie? I’d likely say no. Was it a good movie? Truthfully, I’m a little hesitant to even say that. Is it worth seeing once, maybe twice? Absolutely, if for no other reason than to appreciate how the horror genre might take on changes as it (hopefully) grows, It Follows may not be a milestone, but it is certainly a stepping stone in the right direction for movie fans everywhere.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
It Follows is Rated R for adult themes, swearing, and nudity. It was released on March 13th, 2015 and as of this article’s publication is available for viewing on Netflix.