After THE BABADOOK, IT FOLLOWS is the second critical darling horror movie in a year where the premise is far scarier than the final execution. This is pretty frustrating as it feels like another near-miss, but at the same time I feel that It Follows has quite a bit more going for it that its Australian cousin.
Following her first significant sexual encounter, Jay (Maika Monroe) finds her quiet suburban teenage life invaded by an unstoppable something that wants her dead. Her pursuer moves slowly, but It is relentless and can look like anyone. As it becomes increasingly clear that she will never find peace, what lengths will Jay go to in order to exorcise her curse?
It Follows is one of the best-looking films of recent years, horror or otherwise. The pristine, relentless steadicam work, tracking shots, and wide, open vistas throughout support well the themes and plot of the film. Because everything is open, you find yourself constantly scanning the background for It. You’re often consumed by the same paranoia as Jay, constantly on the alert for the next time It appears. I’m quite frankly amazed writer-director David Robert Mitchell has only been at the helm of one other feature before this as his confidence in style and certainty of aesthetic makes the film feel like it is the work of a far more seasoned craftsman.
Rich Vreeland’s score heightens the sinister atmosphere perfectly, sounding chillingly like the musical lovechild of John Carpenter and Vangelis and keeping you constantly on edge.
Performance-wise, Maika Monroe reaffirms her position as one of the most rounded and likeable leading ladies in recent years. Much like with her turn in THE GUEST, Monroe as Jay embraces horror tropes to a point, but feels like a real, normal young woman and reacts as one probably would do to her terrifying predicament. She tells her closest friends about her pursuer almost immediately, and rather than dismiss her until they themselves are knocked off as might happen in the average slasher, they trust Jay and help her as best they can.
Jay’s hipster stereotype of a friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi) annoyed me incessantly, serving no purpose but to read choice prose at thematically convenient moments from her stupid ever-present clamshell Kindle. She represents a forced quirkiness that makes JUNO look subtle in comparison.The rest of the characters work well enough for what they actually have to do in the plot, though perhaps cling a bit closely to conventional horror archetypes.
I liked that it’s left pretty ambiguous what It is beyond a malevolent force. We know how It works, that It hunts the most recent victim of carnal desire, before working its way back along the chain until none remain. We know previous carriers can still see It (a concept that could be made more of), but the force is only concerned with the single, most recent victim. We also have an idea of the things It represents – lust, guilt, STDs, commitment to a sexual relationship too soon. What we don’t know is why It chooses the forms it does, when they change and why, which makes what I think was meant to be a ground-shaking twist later on in the film a little muddy.
After a pretty solid first hour, the film certainly loses something in the final act. The tension mostly leaves the story and it feels like it’s going for a big finish before just petering out. It all becomes a bit SCOOBY DOO as Jay and her clique plan to set a trap for It, and their final confrontation is disappointing. A story like this can’t be tied up with a bow, and the loosely resolved state of the plot works in the end, but you still want an extra punch from somewhere. I would still recommend It Follows as a creepy, if not outright scary, horror with solid performances, well supported by high-impact direction and music. SSP