“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”
In an era that doesn’t take the horror genre seriously anymore, It Follows is the answer to our deprivation as it crawls under our skin and lingers for days to follow.
Filmmakers like Jim Mickle with “We Are What We Are,” Jennifer Kent with “The Babadook,” and now David Robert Mitchell with “It Follows”are starting to bring the horror genre back, and I’m loving it!
It Follows does something clever–it takes a very old concept and revamps it for a new generation without the cheap thrills and typical scares of a campy horror. If Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street had a baby, this would be their Frankenstein. Like it’s predecessors before it, It Follows creates enough unease to make you sleep with the lights on, look behind every corner and cringe from what’s under the bed.
How often do horror films create such a level of dread?
After Jay Heights (Maika Monroe) has a sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary), her seemingly tranquil life turns into a crash course of survival 101 when a paranormal entity begin following her. But no one else can see it. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it on through sexual intercourse, and that’s how this fatal game is played.
Sounds pretty ridiculous right? It’s actually not.
“It” can look like anyone: an old woman, a child, your mom. And it doesn’t sprint after you, or pop out from behind the corner, it paces toward you…very slowly. A pace as sedated as the zombies from Night of the Living Dead and equally as determined.
Writer and director David Robert Mitchell conceived the film based upon recurring dreams he had in his youth about being followed. Mitchell refers to the dreams as anxiety dreams, which is less disturbing than a nightmare and is characterized with feelings of unease, distress or apprehension in the dreamer upon waking up.
The film features a handful of believable performances of the angst and confusion of being a young adult. Intimacy between the characters builds strong bonds that the horror tests, and Maika Monroe’s Jay is the scream queen of our smartphone generation. Her sheer anguish from contracting this “disease” is palpable–her pain seeps inside of you.
While it may sound like a hokey STD demon nightmare, it’s roots and metaphors offer something more substantial than your average thriller.
“The Follower is like death itself. It becomes a constant. An inevitability. And like the best monsters, curses, and paranormal happenings, it feeds on rational human fears. Distrust of strangers. The sensation of being watched, or followed.
Then, applied in the context of youth, of coming-of-age, the Follower becomes a terrifying extension of our mortality. The instant we understand that we will eventually die and our youthful invincibility leaves us forever.” via Should I Watch Reviews
Another unique component of the film is the ambiguous timeline associated with the plot. It has an ultra 80s vibe with retro cars yet is engrossed with modern technology. Early CRT television sets are shown whenever the characters are watching classic movies. Conflicting technology include one character on a device that looks like a shell compact, but she reads from it like an e-book reader and uses it as a light source at one point. It’s like a hipster’s wet dream. But while it upholds the sense of modernity, the emotions are vintage…your parents can’t help you, the police can’t help you, there isn’t an app for It. Ultimately, you’re on your own. Shit out of luck.
The ambiguity of the plot heightens the tension and creates a greater threat to our psyche. Where exactly does “it” come from and how can “it” be contained or destroyed?
“I’m not personally that interested in where ‘it’ comes from. To me, it’s dream logic in the sense that they’re in a nightmare, and when you’re in a nightmare there’s no solving the nightmare. Even if you try to solve it.” David Robert Mitchell, director of It Follows via Digital Spy
One of the characters reads out a section from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, which sums up the meaning behind our anxiety regarding It and ties together what they’re experiencing:
“But here I should imagine the most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all-but the certain knowledge that in an hour, then in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now-this very instant-your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man-and that this is certain, certain!”