Let me begin with stating that I am not the world’s biggest horror film fan. I’ve dabbled occasionally, but never really found the spark or connection with a film that others claim to have had. I have found that on the whole, horror films tend to be relatively poorly made, very predictable and completely reliant upon the jump factor, which is scary initially but soon forgotten. ‘It Follows’ however, was a completely different experience, and for the first time I felt the full effect that a slick, powerful and well made horror film can have upon its audience. This film is truly and genuinely terrifying.
For a brief plotline, the film follows Jay, a teenage girl, and her adolescent friends on a journey through sexual exploration, with terrifying consequences. Jay is portrayed by the impressive Maika Monroe, who stands out from the rest of the somewhat indistinguishable cast. ‘It’ is a curse which follows an individual, and is passed from person to person through sexual intercourse. The curse then manifests itself through varying human forms and follows its victims at a fast walking pace, never at a run, until it catches them and kills them. This film then, acts as a crossover between the coming-of-age and horror genres and I thought that it was a particularly refreshing move away from the “slasher” films that have dominated the markets in recent years. ‘It’ adopts many different human forms, varying from a small child to its most terrifying form of an eight-foot tall man. This giant of a man is present in the most horrifying moment of the film, appearing from the shadows to tower over the group of protagonists, in such a menacing way that it is the single lasting image I have taken from the film. A moment which drew gasps of repulsion from the entirety of the cinema theatre.
Stylistically, the film is stunning, wit the use of panning shots proving to be particularly effective. Shots that were, at times, minutes in length, were the cause of great discomfort for me, as I found myself constantly scanning the scene for the slightest glimpse of the curse. It’s a technique that’s been used before in many a horror film – much like ‘Paranormal Activity’, but it just seemed in this instance, to be much more effective and much more intense. I think the intense nature of the film was achieved by steering clear of the jump tactics favoured by films previous horror films, and focusing instead on a subtle presentation of our main antagonist. ‘It’ is always there, it’s ever present on screen and in our minds, so we have no need to be jolted in to fear, we just need to be quietly reminded that ‘It’ is following us, always watching us.
The reason why I think the film was so powerful and has been so well received is the result of a couple of things. Firstly, this is an experience that director David Mitchell says he experienced as a child in a dream. Consequently, the film emanates a rather personal and heart-felt story, to the extent that it felt horribly real. Indeed, when I left the cinema that night, I found myself anxiously approaching my car, worried that something was following me – much like Mitchell said he experienced in his childhood dreams. Secondly, Rich Vreeland’s musical score is nothing short of fantastic. An accomplished mix of classical accompaniment and electronic riffs contribute to this truly terrifying spectacle.
I was convinced to go and watch ‘It Follows’ by BBC’s Film 2015 review show, when they reviewed it as the film of the series. But their adulation for the film came with a warning: “do not watch this film on your own!”. I can only concur with this statement, and in fact I strongly recommend that you go and see the film in the cinema, as your experience will be greatly enriched, and it’s always entertaining to see and hear people’s reactions to what’s happening on screen. As I said before, I am no horror fan. ‘It Follows’ however, is a wonderful piece of cinema; beautifully and thoughtfully made and Mitchell’s dream has been adapted perfectly for the big screen experience. There are so many reasons that I won’t be forgetting this film for a long time to come, even when I’m laying in my bed, in the dark of night, desperately wanting the images to disappear.
DIRECTOR: DAVID MITCHELL
STARRING: MAIKA MONROE, KEIR GILCHRIST, OLIVIA LUCCARDI, LILI SEPE