It Follows is a 2015 horror film starring Maika Monroe (The Guest, Labor Day), Keir Gilchrist (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, TV’s United States of Tara), and Lili Sepe. The film was directed by David Robert Mitchell.
It Follows revolves around Jay (Monroe), a 19-year old who recently had a sexual encounter that had some unflattering results. Her boyfriend Hugh (Jack Weary) has now passed on the curse of an entity that always follows its victim until they are killed. The only problem is, no one who has been cursed by the entity can see it and it takes on different human forms each time. Once the latest victim has been killed, the entity goes out to kill the person who spread the entity last and so forth until essentially the chain is complete. Now Jay must not only convince her friends that something is after her but also try to distance herself far enough from the horror once and for all.
Pretty much every horror film released lately follows a very generic formula that allows most of them to not leave the lasting effect that is meant to be had after experiencing its horrors. While It Follows still goes through some horror conventions (then again any film in its genre will do so), everything feels fresh and new within the film. This film is also the closest example to matching the atmosphere of horror films from the past and that is very nice to see within the crop of all the recent horror offerings.
The film is one of the few where after viewing it (and it’s been a couple of days now), the horror presented is still haunting upon further reflection. There is no overly dramatic approach to the material as the film takes it time and builds up the suspense. This effect still doesn’t change the haunting feeling the film gives of someone constantly following you ready to attack at a moment’s notice. When the film does get into its intense moments with the entity, the buildup is well worth the rewarding payoff and those rewards heighten the suspense even more. Even the reactions seem natural from the cast. There are not as many dramatic screams to fill up the runtime. Even during the smaller build up scares (such as the sound of broken glass), the reaction is natural and not some clichéd response of ‘What was that?” Essentially, this isn’t a film for the jump scare fans but for those who want the intense suspense with the effective payoffs, this film is for them.
The absence of a sense of time throughout the film is one of the minor parts of the film which stands out and shows that even the small parts of this film are even better than the larger parts of other horror adventures. With TVs dating back to the 70’s while watching black and white horror films, cars from the 90’s and 2000’s, and an e-reader that looks like it is from beyond 2015, the film never tries to define a set time. Not only is it a relief to not try to use a lot of technology to try to make sense of the horrors of the film, but not setting an exact time frame adds to the horror of this event happening anywhere at any time. In fact, perhaps the timelessness of it shows that this chain of events has been happening for a very long time and has only now reached Jay.
One of the more important aspects of the film which works and makes the film also feel like a film from a while back is the fantastic score. What made some of the horror films from the past so great is that they built up their suspense with the eerily creepy music making its presence more apparent. The electronic mixed score in It Follows definitely has the sound and effect of a score from the past but has enough of a modern feel to it that it is surprising more horror films today don’t follow suit.
The cast here is fantastic and make for one of the better casts in a recent horror film. Maika Monroe takes on her character’s shy, not overtly powerful personality and falls naturally into the character. Monroe allows Jay to still go through her faults and not become immune to the horrors as other similar films try to accomplish. Though she is still fairly new to the acting game, a performance like her’s here will hopefully get her in more roles soon. Keir Gilchrist does a fine job playing a character who has essentially been “friend-zoned” but still tries to help out in the best way possible. The rest of the cast also take the right approach with their characters and no one really stands out as giving a bad performance as they all work well together. The cast felt like an actual group of friends instead of just a cast being thrown together with the obvious lack of chemistry standing out.
It Follows is the type of horror film that is a rare standout in the over saturated horror market. With its simple story, effective performances, eerie atmosphere, and a horror presence that is still haunting after watching, this horror entry succeeds in what it set out for. The film is also the best one to come out so far this year and there have been plenty of strong candidates. It’s nice to see this film develop a word-of-mouth following to get it into nationwide release and hopefully more smaller films get similar exposure as time goes on.
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe
Rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language
Runtime: 100 minutes