Why The ‘It Follows’ Hype is Real – Reviewby Jon Lachonis / March 27, 2015
It Follows has achieved a rare status among indie horror. Once fated for a VOD release, the film’s near universal critical acclaim (95% on Rotten Tomatoes) and aggressive word of mouth forced the film, from writer director David Robert Mitchell, into wide release.
Keep in mind, this is not a manufactured wide release campaign ala Paranormal Activity, this is an entirely organic happening and one that is extremely rare in the world of Indie Horror, and there is a reason for it. David Robert Mitchell has transcended the trappings of horror tropes and generated a hyper real character piece that becomes a master class in suspense.
The plot is simple and familiar. A young girl named Jay, played by Maika Monroe (The Guest), is the recipient of a curse that is transmitted sexually. She will be followed by a slow walking formless menace that only she, and previously afflicted victims, can see. If it reaches her, she dies and the curse moves back to the person who passed it to her. Her only option is to have sex with someone else and pass the curse on.
While it seems reminiscent of well worn tropes like those of ‘The Ring’, ‘Pulse’, and ‘Shutter’, It Follows quickly diverges off the beaten path after the action begins.
For starters, the rhythm of It Follows is a huge departure from the ultra violent and propulsive horror of recent memory. The film is set in the ruins of a poverty ridden Detroit, and Mitchell uses this backdrop as a powerful subtext to his thesis. Visions of boarded and collapsing homes and abandoned Schools and Parking Garages form a solid metaphorical bond with the films device of an evil invisible force creeping across America.
The icing on the cake though is the characters. In most ‘industrial’ horror, the characters seem like, well, characters in a horror film. Hyper stylized, pretty, devoid of conflict and just waiting to be picked off. In It Follows, Mitchell has created a group of characters that are unremarkable in any hyperbolic sense but come off as completely believable and relatable. Jay and her two sisters, and their child hood friend Paul who is lovesick for Jay, form the core of the characterscape as well-drawn teens dealing with a coming of age moment tainted by a supernatural force.
The core machination of It Follows, the followings themselves, create an insanely suspenseful plot as the characters move from location to location trying to buy time to deal with the menace, but always coming up short. You know ‘It’ is going to show up eventually, and every background character is a suspect. Each successive appearance of ‘It’ is more intense than the last and merely resets your dread for the next. ‘It’ is always there, somewhere, waiting to exact its mysterious purpose.
There is mild gore and the occasional ‘Boo’, but Horror Hounds looking for a shock fest will be let down. It Follows purpose is definitely centered on suspense, and it achieves this at a level comparable to classics like Psycho and Halloween. Without the delicately drawn characters and the numerous layers of metaphor, It Follows would easily be the VOD selection it seemed fated to become. As it stands though, Mitchell has deftly crafted an allegory on the paranoia of the post 9/11 world where poverty creeps like It Follows’ invisible specter, and the ‘enemy’ walks among us.