It Follows (2014)

Chances are, at this juncture, you’ve already heard of the festival darling, word-of-mouth juggernaut that is It Follows. All I’m really here to tell you is that, to my mind, it lives up the hype and marks its director as one to watch.

Jay is a young girl on the verge of leaving her teenage years behind. Through a brief introduction we learn that she’s beautiful but introspective, longing for a fairytale life that urban Detroit just can’t provide. On a date one evening, Jay has sex in a car with a new potential boyfriend, but rather than it being the magical, fulfilling night of her dreams, she’s left with a rather terrifying sexually transmitted reminder once the date is over. It Follows is a film best seen with fresh eyes, so to say too much more than that would be a disservice to both the reader and the film.

The genius of It Follows comes directly from its sheer simplicity. Many of the tropes we’ve become familiar with as horror fans are present and correct, but they’re used in such a graceful way that It Follows always feels completely original.

We’re so accustomed to seeing horror movie dames fall foul of murderous psychopaths once they pop their respective cherries, that the notion of sex being used as a storytelling device or metaphorical weapon isn’t anything new. What sets It Follows apart from its contemporaries however, is the use of the sex act itself as a literal means of creating a threat.

It’s also refreshing to see the subject matter presented without judgement. Writer and drector David Robert Mitchell doesn’t appear to have any agenda here, neither demonising nor lauding promiscuity or teenage sex. Our protagonist here is simply a normal teenager who gets very, very unlucky.

Although a simple story, Mitchell has come up with a solid foundation for his movie world, and a set of well thought out rules that are presented without excess exposition. Not without gaps though, the audience is left with much to ponder long after the credits have rolled, in the best possible way.

Maika Monroe, fresh from a co-starring role in The Guest is perfect as the central character. Jay is pretty, and appears to know it, but is quiet and mercifully devoid of ego, whilst also just being normal and believable. Her friends are also cast well, providing naturalistic performances that wonderfully complement the beautiful cinematography and gorgeous framing in almost every scene. The film is almost completely devoid of parental or authoritarian figures, and combined with the stark Detroit landscape, this only serves to amplify the principal character’s alienation.

It Follows is relatively light on jump scares and there’s almost no bloodshed to speak of, but it more than makes up for that with an almost claustrophobic tension that’s ramped up by a masterful 80′s inspired synth score. Since 2011′s Drive, electronica soundtracks have become de rigueur, but they’re seldom done as brilliantly as this.

Having been favourably compared to a slew of contemporary horror classics, It Follows is not shy of acclaim, but don’t let the hype machine ruin your viewing. It’s gorgeously shot, with likable protagonists who make realistic decisions and a moody atmosphere and palpable threat. This is the original horror that the fans have been demanding for so long. Watch it at your earliest convenience.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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