Most horror films are relatively formulaic. I can appreciate that as a fan, but every once in a blue moon, something truly special comes along. It Follows is the story of 19 year old college girl, Jay. During the early stages of a relationship with a boy named Hugh, Jay is knocked out by chloroform and tied to a chair. He explains that since they have slept together he has passed a curse onto Jay. A thing, a force, an entity, call it what you like, will now follow her wherever she goes. It will take many forms, oftentimes of a loved one, sometimes deceased. Never let it touch you, for if you do, it will kill you. The only way to pass along the curse it to sleep with someone else. Absurd premise, yes. Scary as hell, absolutely. Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell takes us into a world that was created from one of his childhood nightmares. A presence that stalked him slowly and incessantly. We’ve all had these dreams; something or someone following us. The main difference here is we always wake up.
Jay is trapped in this scenario and to make things worse, only the afflicted can actually see the “monster”. Accompanied by her sister Kelly, friends Yara, Paul, and neighbor Greg, these five teens do their damnedest to fight off something that seems so unreal it cannot possibly be true. While there is the obvious STD allegory, the film it truly frightening. The opening shot, by cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, is a masterpiece. One long take in which the camera pans 360 degrees as a young girl runs in what seems like meaningless circles to escape something we don’t see. It is immediately jarring. This is only heightened by the unbelievable score by Rich Vreeland (a.k.a. Disasterpeace). The music is a character unto itself. It completely sets a tone of menace and impending doom. Mostly electronic in style, it is the perfect backdrop to such an odd story line and crazy camera work.
Maika Monroe plays Jay as a typical girl with an insanely weird problem on her hands. This young woman has a innate gift for playing extreme highs and lows from moment to moment. Imagine an ax wielding murderer that just won’t die, following you no matter what you try and do to stop it. This haunting presence ravages her psyche and thus her body. Lack of sleep and situational madness naturally take hold. Monroe is a pro in terms of nailing the scream queen position, but not in any negative sense. The discussion of sexual power should be one we focus on. It brings up many issues, both worldly and simply in the genre itself. Jay is breaking one of the cardinal rules being that sex usually equals death in these films. That is quite the commentary. It seems that only when sex is used as a power play by a woman, we find that she is the villain. There is a lovely shift that occurs in this film, as Jay becomes protagonist and antagonist in search of a way out. It is a beautiful study in the classic horror Fight or Flight response. It Follows tackles both angles. The question remains, which is the proper response when the power is supernatural? That is for the audience to decide, ultimately. It Follows is a definite homage to classic horror and yet has a fresh, otherworldly feel. I dare you to try and escape the horror that follows you home once you leave the theater.
IT FOLLOWS opens March, Friday the 13th. Go See This Film!
*This review originally appeared on AWFJ.org- I Scream You Scream