Director David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows” is similar to that nightmare you had that was so terrifying that it woke you from a sound sleep. The images that were so vivid before you awoke are now like the jumbled pieces of a puzzle. But despite the disjointed nature the images are clear enough to remind you of the fear you felt.
“It Follows” is a smart, disturbing and haunting tale that is truly, deeply scary.
Mitchell’s film follows no traditional horror film rules. The director lures you into a world where anyone and everyone can be the killer. A moody visual approach coupled with a chilling musical score creates a sense of paranoia in the viewer that builds with each moment.
Scary movies tend to create a very distinct mythology when it comes to the creature (or creatures) killing their way through the story. This could be anything from a mental patient to a demon. This approach creates very specific ways the creatures are going to act. By the end of the film, the audience has been conditioned to know which direction the terror will take.
There’s nothing traditional or predictable about “It Follows.”
The film focuses on a group of average teens who are living a rather mundane existence until an evil force is introduced into their lives. Those who are the focus of the evil are the only ones who can see its manifested shape that can be anything from a good friend to an old naked man standing on a roof.
The only way to pass on the evil is through sexual relations. Death after intercourse is a standard horror film ploy. But, in this case, it’s not a gimmick to make the victims vulnerable. Passing on the evil through sex can easily be seen as a commentary on diseases that can be transmitted in such a manner.
Facing the evil is Jay (Maika Monroe) who enjoys a sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary). The evening ends with her being drugged and tied to a chair. Hugh does this to explain why she now has the evil following her and how she can pass it on.
Jay’s rather dull life begins to spin out of control as she’s followed night and day. The race is on as to whether she can escape the evil before she loses her mind.
It’s impossible to tell if Mitchell has created a traditional story about evil vs. good or the movie is a metaphor for the evil that lurks in our lives from sexual obsession to the consequences of sin.
The director constantly brings the action back to bodies of water. It’s not clear whether the evil is attracted to the water or it’s just a good visual for the director.
The fact there are questions is one of the reasons “It Follows” is so terrifyingly good. Once a director can create a paranoia in the viewer where there are concerns the simple action of someone walking down the street can be part of the terror, then the movie has buried itself in the psyche and is creating a nightmarish response.
There are some brutal moments, but Mitchell never falls back on trying to evoke a reaction through gore. More often than not, the reaction to buckets of blood is more disgust than fear.
“It Follows” builds terror that finds its scares through all the earmarks of a very vivid nightmare.