CULT CORNER: It Follows (2014)

Is this one of the best horror movies of the last ten years? Dylan seems to think so. 

Who made it?: David Robert Mitchell (Director/Writer/Co-Producer), Rebecca Green, David Kaplan, Erik Romessmo, Laura D. Smith (Producers), Northern Lights Films/Animal Kingdom/Two Flints.

Who’s in it?: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi.

Tagline: “It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.”

IMDb rating: 6.9/10.

Horror suffers more than any other genre from clichés and cheap tricks like gore and jump scares to prop up poor filmmaking. This deluge of bad films muddy fun concepts like zombies and found footage, giving the whole genre a bad name.

When a horror flick comes along that is genuinely scary, but also genuinely cinematic, they soon become a classic. It Follows is one of those movies. Taking the slasher concept of a killer with a gimmick, mixing it with the paranormal, and adding what is somehow gritty magical realism, it proves there is still a lot of life and invention with a great script and thoughtful filmmaking.

The plot follows Jay (Maika Monroe), teenage girl who sleeps with her new boyfriend Hugh. She does not realise that by having sex with him, she is now cursed, and the primary member of a daisy chain of those chased by a demon, who will keep walking towards her, death in its mind, no matter what she does. Her only chance is to sleep with somebody else, and pass the curse on.

If you have not watched the film, the above plot summary might not exactly enthrall you. It is a synopsis straight out of the early eighties, containing all the tropes lampooned by Scream for twenty years, combined with something from an Argento cutting room floor.

Yet why the movies works is because director and writer David Robert Mitchell uses this simple idea to bounce around themes of adolescence and a loss of innocence. Although the decor and clothes of some characters suggest an early eighties Halloween knock-off, there are cell phones and a clam-shaped Kindle device too modern even for the real world. The cars are a mixture of old and new models, and the television shows, books and movies the characters digest refuse to give an exact date.

This is echoed in the score by Disasterpeace, whose bleepy and creepy synthesisers owe a great deal to John Carpenter, but also could slot into any Nicholas Winding Refn move of the last six years. But this is not just serving nostalgia and the trends of today. Dread builds with every note, and sucks you further into the off-kilter world that infuses every part of the film.

This sounds  like a potential confusing mess, with the horror slipping into half-baked mumblecore, but the confidence of director Mitchell ensures everything is in there for a reason.

A lot of the filmmaking took place in either the cosy suburban side of Detroit or its ruined centres, which even in a documentary sense is astonishing to compare. But every location highlights the idea of a content world clashing with one falling into disrepair. This is mirrored by characters desperate to hang onto their childhood, with card games, playgrounds and cartoons all featured. Even a trip to the cinema is one of longing to be a child, discussed on a screen that does not seem to have changed since the fifties.

Every scene squeezes a point into props and lines of dialogue, even if only to build up themes. There are constant references to bodies of water, be it swimming pools, or in the poem an English teacher reads. A drowning insect and several blades of grass set up plot strands for later on.

Since this demon masquerades as different human beings, who walk slowly but constantly towards their designated target, the film avoids any “rubber suit” issues that plague so many films of this nature. And the film uses a range of actors as the “It” coming towards them, which for some reason, are all dressed in pyjamas, and are a huge range of ages and sizes. You never quite know when and who is going to turn up next, and why this is happening in the first place.

This makes the most iconic shot of the film someone out of focus walking towards the protagonist. Sometimes, they are an extra walking past, and other times, the figure leads to death and destruction. This puts you on edge when they are flicking through yearbooks, or chilling by the beach, and adds a constant ticking clocks to proceedings. You keep a close eye on how long the characters are taking, and if the fuzzy man near the hedges is about to attack.  This culminates in the final shot of the movie, which should be little more than harmless, but audited a gasp from the audience when I saw the film for the first time.

In a crowded, clustered genre, It Follows shows it is not about reinventing the wheel, but coming up with a solid concept and stamping your own mark on the film. You will be the discussing the nature of the rules, and having the “what would I do in this situation?” debate long after the film has finished. Smart in its references, gorgeous in its filmmaking, and creepy enough to make you look over your shoulder, horror fans must check this flick out.

Best Scene

One of the earliest sightings of the monster in the film, this scene brings together everything; the haunting score, the thematic references, the retro design, and that chilling nightmare image.

Useless Trivia

(Via IMDb)
  • The film’s concept derives from a recurring nightmare the director used to have, where he would be stalked by a predator that continually walked slowly towards him.
  • The film mixes props from all eras to give it a loose and indistinguishable time frame.
  • Following overwhelmingly positive first weekend reception from critics and audiences, the film’s originally-planned VOD/theatrical release was cancelled in favor of a theatrical-only release.

Dylan Spicer

Dylan graduated from Brighton Film School and and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. He has worked on award-winning short and feature films. He is currently experimenting with Narradu Memories, and his online audio drama giantcannibals.co.uk.

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