What the??? Most likely, that is what you will be asking yourself. It’s entirely possible that this is either one of the worst horror/suspense films in recent years OR one of the best. At first glance, it looks like something that you may have stumbled across on Netflix; but a closer look will reveal a fantastically orchestrated suspense film with a powerful message. Interestingly, this is one of few movies that actually ticked up on IMDb, RottenTomatoes, and MetaCritic. But, after sitting on this review overnight, I can understand why the rating has gone up and not stayed the same or ticked down. Although the acting is less than adequate and the plot is a little over-the-top at times, the allegorical message is very well written into this YA suspense-thriller.
It Follows is about a group of teenagers who find themselves on the run from an unknown specter that stalks its prey. The movie centers in and around a young lady named Jay (Maika Monroe) who, following a strange sexual encounter with an attractive young man named Hugh (Jake Weary), becomes the focus of an evil entity that slowly stalks her anywhere she is. With all others unable to see the specter, she begins to wonder if she is going mad. After some sleuthing with her best friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Jay finds herself in a tangled web with many moral and ethical dilemmas facing her and her friends.
Reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street, It Follows takes place on a normal nondescript middle-class street with promiscuous teenagers trying to find their places in an adult world. Between the nostalgic set design and old-school score, you will think that Robert Englund is about to appear with his iconic Freddy Kruger razor glove. But, the enemy in this suspense-thriller is one part psychological (like Freddy) and one part physiological. It is very unclear as to the time and space in which this story occurs. You will find personal electronic device technology that we enjoy today along side TVs from the 1980s existing in a city in whose glory days had long-past. Although it isn’t until the height of the crisis that we learn that the nearly-abandoned city that serves as the backdrop is present-day Detroit, hints as to the location are sprinkled throughout the narrative. On that note, all the stories you’ve heard about vacant houses and neighborhoods in gross disrepair in the motor city, are very true–it’s scary.
From a technical perspective, the movie is fairly lacking; however, despite the low-quality lenses, cameras, and lighting that were obviously used, the cinematography is quite good. The balance between objective and subjective shots is used effectively to highlight and advance the plot through the well-structured narrative. Proper pacing is crucial in a horror film, and Writer-Director David Robert Mitchell has proven that even on a small budget (~$2MIL), that a great horror movie can be produced in today’s climate of film competing with TV competing with streaming services. Although this movie will likely find a greater audience once it hits Netflix and Hulu+, it has received a fairly good welcome during its theatrical release, for a film that has been under the radar except in larger cities.
!!CONTAINS SPOILERS!! (skip to the last paragraph for the closing remarks)
Regarding the not-so-subtle allegorical theming of the movie, it is clearly a movie about STD/I’s. On one hand, it comes off as an after-school special or a movie that is shown to Middle/High Schoolers; but on the other, it is an extremely clever way to talk about a touchy and tough subject. Not so contrary to the 80s slasher movies that basically had the message “if you’re a horny teenager and you have sex, you will die,” this movie takes a more realistic approach in dealing with the scary world of not always knowing if someone has something, or if you may have something that could get passed on and “follow” someone. Although the idea of supernatural specters haunting teenagers or young people who have casual or random sex is unrealistic, the entities represent the fact that anyone can have a STD/I and pass it on to someone else. I feel strongly that the 80s feel of the setting is directly related to the fact that the AIDS scare happened during that decade. Even though society has learned a lot about STD/I’s since then, and has come a long way in educating and appropriately mitigating irrational reactions from people, it is vitally important that sexually-active people–especially teenagers and young adults–be very cautious and protect themselves against something that could “follow” you and/or your sexual partner(s) for a very long time, if not forever, or maybe even kill you. The consequences (good and bad) of sexual behavior outside of a relationship are very real. And in many respects, can very well haunt your mind and body.
If you enjoy well-directed and written suspense movies rich with sociological and societal themes, then check out It Follows while it is in theatres. Although you may be inclined to dislike the movie immediately following the close of the story, I can almost guarantee that you will grow to like it because it will undoubtedly prompt you and your friends to think about the message and the creative execution. The longer the movie sits on your mind, the more you will learn to appreciate it. That was the case with me. At first I didn’t care for it, and now I find it to be a remarkable movie that hits all the right sensational and pleasurable-unpleasure marks that a horror film needs to hit in order to become a cult classic.