Review of ‘It Follows‘
I finally, after many weeks of reading reviews and absorbing buzz, went to see ‘It Follows’.
Horror fans, of which I am one, tend to maintain a carefully calibrated set of expectations. Horror movies can be characterized according to several sub-genres, all of which observe certain tropes and obey certain rules. Movies rarely transcend their sub-genre, and part of enjoying horror movies is appreciating the limitations and traditions of these categories.
But it’s nice to see something a little different once and a while. ‘It Follows’ is unusual in a couple of ways: the premise is unfamiliar and completely unexplained: the creepiness is simply allowed to exist – it is never demystified or justified. There is no reveal: it’s an alien! It’s a demon! It’s a girl who was drowned! It’s a cyborg! It simply is, and must be contended with.
But perhaps the most novel thing about ‘It Follows’, the genre convention which is most surprising in its abandonment, is this: the teenage characters in it do relatively few stupid things.
Stupid actions done by teenagers are the sine qua non of horror plots. Split up the group, go explore the weird noise alone, break into the boarded-up asylum, don’t check under the bed, in the closet, or behind the door: without this basic toolkit, pretty much no horror movie could advance its plot.
And that’s fine, but it gets a little old: you watch a blonde in a crop top walk into another obvious trap, and you think, “Haven’t these people ever seen a horror movie? Can’t she hear the ominous music?”
But what’s cool about ‘It Follows’ is that, with one or two exceptions, most of the kids in the movie act exactly the way you would act if you or someone you knew had contracted a sexually-transmitted zombie.
The central problem, besides the zombie, obviously, is this: how, exactly, could you come to be sure that something was following you? If it could take any form, and could only walk after you, that thing would kill you long before you even knew you were being chased. And how would you ever convince anyone else, your friends and family, who couldn’t even see it?
‘It Follows’ deals with this efficiently and well, getting the first part, convincing the main character, Jay (played by Maika Monroe), of her danger, out of the way with plenty of time leftover to watch that creepy thing walk after her.
And it’s really creepy. Because the creature walks everywhere, you must adjust your horror-movie expectations again: you are no longer looking into shadows waiting for something to spring out at you – rather, you spend the movie scanning crowds, like a secret service agent, looking for someone, anyone at all, walking in a straight line. The thing follows Jay to public places, schools, beaches, and it comes day and night. And because she’s not safe anywhere, you’re not safe anywhere. You can’t relax and wait for the normal cues to alert you that trouble is coming – trouble is always coming, slowly, but inexorably, in any guise it chooses.
All of which makes ‘It Follows’ the best horror movie I’ve seen in a while, certainly the scariest. I saw it days ago, and I won’t lie: I’m glad Spouse wasn’t away at all this week. I’m not a kid anymore – it’s an unusual horror movie that leaves me uneasy in my mind. This was one.