I was certain hype was going to kill this one for me. After seeing the theatrical trailer (yet missing the theatrical release), it was littered with so many quotes from various horror-film review sites that It Follows (2014) was destined to fall short of its praise. I am now a little shocked, after viewing the film On Demand via Amazon, that hype was not its killer. It Follows is actually quite creative, compelling, and engaging during its entire runtime.
Jay Height (Maika Monroe) lives a quiet life in the Detroit suburbs with her mother and younger sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe). Jay has recently begun to date handsome young man, Hugh (Jake Weary), and the two attend a movie theatre one evening. They engage in light conversation, and Hugh points out to Jay a young woman in a yellow dress entering the theatre. Jay says that she cannot see the person, and Hugh asks her again if she is certain. Jay says that she is, and Hugh becomes fearful and hurriedly asks Jay to leave. Despite his weird behavior, Jay has a second date with Hugh, a romantic lakeside rendezvous. They eventually fuck in Hugh’s car, and while Jay is enjoying her post-loving elation, she is subdued by Hugh who drugs her and knocks her out. Jay awakens to find herself tied to a wheelchair and the sounds of Hugh apologizing: Hugh is being chased by a dauntless pursuer who is only hindered by the fact that he or she is walking (not running). The pursuer, according to Hugh, can change form into anyone; and the only way to steer the pursuer is to sleep with someone, who then becomes the object of the pursuer. If the pursuer catches his/her object, then it is certain death. It is a shitty thing to do someone, and Hugh drops her at her home, telling her to just sleep with someone quickly and get the beast off of her back. At her home, Jay finds Kelly and her two friends, Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi). These three have a little trouble believing the curse story but they deeply care about Jay and are willing to help her in her dilemma.
The most striking and obvious aspect about It Follows is how detached it feels: while the photography is quite nice (by Mike Gioulakis) and the compositions interesting, they never feel intimate. The use of music is judicious (by Disasterpeace) and is used in a mostly non-traditional manner for a horror film. There is little substantive dialogue (screenplay is by director, David Robert Mitchell): while most of the dialogue is in service of the story, e.g. “Where to do want to go?” or “Do you need me to help you?”, a good portion of the dialogue is romantic: Paul and Jay discuss each giving his/her first kiss to each other when they were children; Jay waxes poetic in her post-loving elation about what she thought dating would be like as a little girl; and finally, for example, Yara is reading The Idiot throughout It Follows and quotes several poetic passages to an often captive group of characters. Initially, I thought It Follows was going to be River’s Edge Redux, detailing in fashion the sexual mores of suburban teenagers. Not quite. It is a little off-putting to watch, however, Jay have a second confrontation with Hugh and not display any anger towards him. The only real emotions that these characters show is fear. I think that director Mitchell was going for something a little more familiar: the powerful disruption of an idyllic and quiet suburban life by encroaching urban dangers. Yara tells a story, near the beginning of the third act (and again in romantic fashion), how her mother told her never to cross Eight Mile Road alone: it is where the suburbs end and the city begins. What dangers are ahead? Pick one: addiction, violence, STD, poverty, teenage pregnancy, absence of hope, etc. Mitchell wraps these fears in allegorical fashion; makes the fear an irrational curse; and plays out the poetic proceedings in a horror film. His technique of detachment is really mimicking the style of his pursuer, of whom little is known at the beginning and little is known at the conclusion.
Any horror-film fan will enjoy It Follows, at least for a single viewing, because it is different. It is also well-done on all levels. It Follows is not a great film but it is certainly well above average, and well above most horror films released today.