Arts & Entertainment

It Follows: Old-school horror, fresh idea

Many grow up learning about sexually transmitted infections in health class or from their parents. There are certain STDs that are more familiar, such as HIV, syphilis and chlamydia. But have you ever heard of an STD that causes a mysterious creature to follow you relentlessly until it kills you? That is the premise of the horror film It Follows, which hits theaters March 27. Director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) not only delivers plenty of thrills in the theater, but his film will keep you peeking over your shoulder for days to come.

The movie revolves around Jay (Maika Monroe), an average high school student. She is dating a guy named Hugh (Jake Weary) and tells her sister that they haven’t slept together, although he wants to. They later go on a date and end up having sex in his car. Afterwards, he knocks her out with a chemical-soaked rag. When Jay wakes up, she is tied to a chair in an abandoned parking garage. What Hugh tells her next completely turns her life upside down.

Hugh explains to Jay that since he has slept with her, he has now passed some sort of curse or infection onto her. He goes on to say that a creature is going to start following her and that it cannot run, it can only walk. No matter how far or near Jay is, the monster will only ever walk toward her.

Hugh doesn’t know where the creature comes from or what it is, only that it started following him after he slept with someone, thus passing it on to him. Hugh also tells Jay that the creature can take the appearance of almost anything. It could look like a stranger one moment and then Jay’s sister the next.

The most important thing, though, is that if Jay fails to sleep with someone and pass the creature on, it will eventually get her and kill her. If she is killed, the creature will return to following Hugh until it either kills him too or he passes it on again to someone else.

The above “rules” about the monster are what drive It Follows and make the movie so terrifying. The horror doesn’t come from how many people are killed or how bloody the violence is — it’s all about the relentlessness of the monster. It never stops. It doesn’t rest and it doesn’t tire. Killing the monster also appears useless — one of the characters even shoots at it to no avail.

Jay is left with a tough choice. She can either live a life on the run and constantly look over her shoulder, or she can try to pass on the creature to someone else.

But passing on the creature is by no means a solution to the problem. Not only is Jay sentencing someone else to a potential death, but she still has to constantly be on the lookout in case the monster succeeds in killing the other person. This adds a level of psychological horror to the movie because it leaves Jay choosing between her life and those of the people around her whom she could pass the creature on to.

It Follows does an excellent job of having the horror come from the story itself, and not the audio or visuals within the movie, which makes it thrive on a “less is more” approach to horror.

Horror films are often made as “B movies,” meaning they have a small budget. This is why they usually don’t feature many A-list actors or famous directors. Many aren’t typically beautifully shot or directed very well.

While It Follows does not feature any A-list actors and is only Mitchell’s second film, it does not feel or look like a B-movie. Mitchell does a fantastic job of adding to the tension in the story through his direction, even on a relatively small budget of $2 million (which is less than the still small $20 million budget of 2013’s The Conjuring) .

The camera is often placed far away from the action within a scene and uses wide-angle lenses, so the movie often makes the viewer feel like an onlooker rather than a viewer. This effect is especially intensified during scenes when the viewer can see the creature slowly approach the unsuspecting characters.

Ultimately, It Follows is a refreshing horror movie that relies on old-school scare techniques such as suspense and a slow build instead of intense gore and a high body count.

Horror film fans will be reminded of early John Carpenter classics such as The Thing (1982), which also features a creature that is relentless in its efforts to kill humans. Newcomers to horror films should see the movie as an example of how terrifying minimalistic horror can be. It Follows combines a simple plot with a relatively small cast and budget, but is able to deliver big thrills.

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