We’ve all had that conversation with our friends about that hot girl when we were teenagers. “Would you still shag here if it meant being haunted by murderous spirits until you pass it on to the next person that’ll let you have your way?”
That is the basic premise of It Follows. And it’s actually not that bad.
It Follows isn’t scared to be different without ever deviating too far from the tropes that horror fans are accustomed to. Therein lies its strength, not since Cabin in the Woods have we seen a movie use the genre by reducing it as a means of heightening the effect. It just does it differently.
A recent movement that can only be described as ‘cattle-prod cinema’ has been rife in the last few years. The subtlety that defined the great horror movies of yesteryear seems to have been exorcised, with the cheap tactics of old-fashioned B-movies now considered enough to toss our popcorn. It’s just ‘boo’ in the dark.
But from the first scene in It Follows we know there’s something up, a high-heeled teenager running from her home, confused and shaken. We’ve all seen that before, and indeed we know exactly the way it ends, but the film is smart enough to know that and well-made enough to keep the tension at that level throughout. Set in an ambiguous era that seems lurched anywhere between today and the 60’s, the slow nature of the narrative creeps along with interfering bursts of ‘following’.
It seems to make a conscious effort to scare people long after they’ve left the cinema. That’s all one can ask from a horror in this day and age – to just make an effort. As with all teen-movies it’s filled with the insecurities and doubts of adolescence. Here it takes the form of decaying, half-naked elderly corpses breaking into the homes of the haunted, played here by Maika Monroe. No, me neither. But her and the rest of the cast do a good job and are well directed by David Robert Mitchell. Nope, not even on Wikipedia.
It’s a testament to a decent horror movie that this does its work without us noticing. And there is an impending sense of horror pervading throughout its entire 90 minute running time. The ending is well judged (on reflection) and with no one character seeming pernicious enough to hate, the jarring sense of unease is well manipulated.
I haven’t been genuinely frightened by a horror movie since seeing Paranormal Activity in the theater about 5 years ago, and that fact remains. But this did come close.