A lot of filmmakers try to pay homage to what influenced them to get into the industry. Unfortunately when people decide to do that it never really works because you cannot outdo your idols. When you watch a movie like It Follows you can instantly tell Director David Robert Mitchell loves horror films from the 1980s. It Follows feels like a time capsule but also feels remarkably fresh in today’s age of bloated, and non-scary, horror films. Because of its retro outlook it makes Mitchell’s sophomore outing one of the best horror films to come out in years.
In terms of plot think The Ring but with sex as the main focal point. Jay (Maika Monroe) gets infected by a random guy after an encounter and now has this unearthly monster following her at all times. The key is she needs to pass this infection to someone else or this creature, who is always in the shape of a random person, will kill her. The rules for this film are set pretty tightly and because of that we are always in constant dread that this thing is nearby. It makes Maika Monroe’s performance that much more effective as she is constantly getting more paranoid and downtrodden as she is losing this unwinnable battle. It makes some of Monroe’s decisions all the more heartbreaking as she degrades herself to get rid of this creature.
It cannot be stressed enough how tense you will be while watching this. By the time the film gets everything in gear we are constantly watching every part of the frame to see whether this thing is in the background. Not since John Carpenter’s The Thing have I personally felt paranoia was perfectly showcased on screen. Speaking of which, this feels remarkably like a John Carpenter film in how everything feels natural. The characters are written realistically and not carbon horror types and the same goes with the setting. Apart from the monster itself much of this is grounded in reality which makes the scares much more effective.
Some of the tricks from Mitchell’s directing and Mike Gioulakis’s cinematography heightens the scares. Again, there is a lot of emphasis on looking at the entire frame in each scene so wide angles are used constantly. There are also a bevy of tracking shots and pans so we can see endless crowds of people in each setting and second guess what the extras motivations are. Towards the middle of the film there is an effective 360 shot in a crowded high school that feels very old school in making the audience be aware of the monster coming. All of this is laid out with Rich Vreeland’s synthetic, and incredibly 80s, score. It sounds ridiculous when you write it out but replacing sharp violin tracks with synth makes for a more compelling picture especially when the creature’s “theme” is play repeatedly.
If you plop It Follows in the year 1985 it would fit right in with that era’s style of horror films. It Follows is a deliberately paced creature feature where the character interactions are balanced with truly terrifying moments. But by having today’s tricks in terms of directing and a solid cast of indie actors this winds up being one of the best horror films of the new millennium. Earlier I mentioned in another indie horror flick (Spring) that today’s indie scene is where you need to go to get your scares. It Follows not only delivers on the scares but showcases that there are still gems to mind in such a tumbling genre.