It Follows: Abstinence Only
Dir. David Robert Mitchell (2014)
A sexually transmitted parasite spreads throughout the community in terrifying ways, and it will stop at nothing to make you spread it to others.
My wife will not watch this movie with me again because it so terrified her the first time we watched it, but I thought I would be brave enough to give it another go (because I also loved it the first time.) There are so many great scenes in the film that are truly scary on an existential level, and the thought of only being able to deter the Entity that is following you by dooming someone else to their death is so nihilistic and creepy. It’s hard to imagine being put in that position, where you have to kill someone else to live, while also having to trick them into the entire process. It’s a truly horrifying concept that is carried out brilliantly by David Robert Mitchell in his first feature film.
Many films have used the silently, slowly stalking killer to great effect, but perhaps none have done so as efficiently as It Follows. It’s one thing to see a scary axe murderer chilling out in the shadows, and its quite another to know that any face in the crowd, and person on a streetcorner, could be the very thing that is on its way to kill you. It never stops, it never rests, and it will never give up until it has you in its grasp. There’s something so fatalistic about knowing that, eventually, it will find you, and knowing that there’s little to nothing that you can do about it once it does. It uses sex to spread its influence, a sickening parable on the trust involved in the entire process of sexuality and love. There are direct corollaries to the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and 90’s, though Mitchell has stated that that wasn’t explicitly intended when writing and directing the film. Instead, he says that it is a metaphor for the “aftermath of sexual assault and the denunciation of victim blaming.” However, it is quite an apt corollary to STI’s as well, and works even better in that regards in my personal opinion.
The chilling after-effects of chlamydia.
The delightfully spooky synthesizer-led score permeates the soundtrack in a way that lulls the viewer into a false sense of security. Many films since have used the synthesizer in much the same way, clearly attempting to steal the magic from It Follows. There is so much about the film that feels familiar, from the darkened living rooms to the black and white old horror films and childhood friendships, and yet the ever-present Entity is so foreign and alien that its even more shocking than it otherwise would be. The movie plays with your sense of security in a way that other films could only dream of, this bizarre and unsettling creepiness from which you simply cannot rid yourself. It’s one of the few films that, if you really get into it, will leave you creeped out and looking over your shoulder for days. No matter how safe you know you are, you just can’t shake the feeling that something is watching you, perhaps from right over your shoulder as you read this.
It's bizarre at times to really put your finger on why It Follows is so effective. It’s like the thought experiment about how you would escape from a snail that was after you, a slow-moving creature that would not stop coming no matter how slow it traveled. Realistically, if the Entity who is chasing this teenage girl is really as slow-moving as it always seems to be, how hard could it be to escape? What the film really hammers home is that it’s not the difficulty in escaping the presence that matters; it’s the fact that it will never stop coming, and no escape is ever final. Even if you pass it on to someone else, you have no way of knowing when it has killed that person and is making its way back to you. It’s the inescapability of the entire process that makes the film so jarringly powerful, not the speed. While we have the dead woman at the beginning of the film to contemplate the after-effects of the creature’s attack, we never know exactly what that attack looks like, which adds even more to the mysterious element that permeates the entire film.
Do you have a second to talk about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
It feels like every year or so we get a truly great horror film, one that stands the test of time and becomes an instant classic. While 2014 had several standout films, like the Babadook and As Above So Below, It Follows is the film that has made a truly lasting impact on the genre (And I’m sorry, The Babadook kinda sucks. I get it, it’s impactful, but that kid is a sin too great to overcome). From the haunting score to the melancholic and drab hopelessness of 2014 Detroit, It Follows is a movie that really sticks in your craw in oh-so-good of a way. It’s nihilistic, depressing, and truly a stellar first film from Mitchell. The young actors put on some truly incredible performances for the level of experience and bring a realism to the film that a lesser film would have lacked. When we find out that the Entity simply cannot be stopped, we feel for these kids in a way that most protagonists of horror films can’t manage to make us care. At the end of the day, that’s yet another factor that makes It Follows so disturbingly compelling.
Who this film is for: Modern horror fans; People who are cool with having the constant willies; Planned Parenthood
Bottom line: Stylish, elegant, and extremely creepy, It Follows rushed to the forefront of horror immediately upon release. It’s an extremely unnerving film and it’s a must-watch for any modern horror fan. Metaphoric and chic, it’s a beautiful nihilistic film that easily climbs near the top of the most ominous films of all time. It’s an excellent film and is 100% worth a watch. If you haven’t seen it yet, which I find hard to believe, check it out at your earliest convenience.