The horror genre is famous, or infamous, for its tropes, and often stumbles into its own pitfalls. “It Follows” hails from the elite strain of horror flicks which cleverly combines familiar concepts with fresh content. David Robert Mitchell’s film is inventive, suspenseful, and comedic, proving once again that the horror genre is far from dead.
College student Jay Height (Maika Monroe), has a bizarre sexual encounter with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary). Afterward, Hugh reacts strangely, warning Jay that because of their intimacy, she’s now the target of an entity which can assume any likeness. Only those affected by the curse can see this boogeyman of sorts. The being will continually follow Jay, and if it succeeds at catching her, it will kill her and pursue the rest of those afflicted by the curse. Jay returns home to the comfort of her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), and friends Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Paul (Keir Gilchrist).
The police can find no trace of Hugh, and after another sighting of the mysterious follower, Jay confides in Paul, Kelly, and Yara. Although they doubt her story, the trio agrees to protect her. They can’t see the entity, and because of its ability to shapeshift, Jay becomes paranoid. Sometimes it looks like a half-naked dead body, others like a friend or family member. Eventually, aided by another friend Greg (Daniel Zovatto), Jay tracks down Hugh. She realizes that her only option is to pass along the curse, and embarks on a mission with Paul, Kelly, Yara, and Greg to stay safe.
“It Follows” opens with an unforgettable, and unexpected scene, setting the tone for the remainder of the film. Despite being set in the present day, there’s a neat 70’s vibe in the décor. The Height household is furnished with retro couches and old black and white TVs, as if plucked from the set of “Halloween.” There’s even an endless string of obscure 50’s sci-fi and horror flicks playing on the ancient television set, like Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) watching “The Thing from Another World.” Current technology is sparse, limited to the occasional cellphone, and Yara’s awesome pink seashell e-reader.
Further John Carpenter inspirations are evident in the camera angles and score. Musical backing could be mistaken for a remixed b-side from the “Halloween” soundtrack. There’s a familiar plodding synth that recurs throughout the film. Carpenteresque and Kubrickian shots lend the sense that there’s a malevolent stalker hiding unseen, even in mundane situations before Jay’s curse. A particularly ingenious 360 camera pan creates dizzying, suspenseful sequences, heightened by the spine-tingling musical backing. Sparse special effects provide a more realistic lens, eschewing CGI.
The imagination of “It Follows” propels the film into a masterpiece. Rather than shun horror stereotypes, “It Follows” embraces them. Notably, the theme of abstinence from sex and survival plays a prominent role, a trope pointed out by Randy (Jamie Kennedy) in “Scream.” Quite a few jump scares execute masterfully, a difficult feat. Even when they’re evidently approaching, such moments still manage the element of surprise. Contrastingly, a few fake outs help nurture a suspenseful atmosphere. A garnish of comedy meshes beautifully, concocting a delightful retro-modern horror romp. Subtlety dominates, with several crucial scenes, including the ending, left intentionally ambiguous. Often imagination is more frightening that what’s depicted on screen, and this uncertainty is a nice touch.
A simultaneous homage and reinvigoration to classic 70’s and 80’s slasher flicks, “It Follows” stands as one of the most enjoyable, and freshest horror flicks of the decade. Creepy, comedic, and with a mixture of recognizable genre staples and revolutionary filmmaking, “It Follows” arrives as a destined classic in the horror cinema canon.