After having sex with someone, Jay (Maika Monroe) is pursued by a supernatural thing that never gives up.
It Follows has a consistent sense of dread, relentless in its pursuit of Jay and the men she sleeps with. For most of the film, this fear comes through the cinematography and score. With close shots of Jay as she moves through the movie, we desperately want the camera to pan around or zoom out so we can see her surroundings and lessen our fear of the unknown. When the camera does circle Jay’s location, it only adds to our fear by showing someone following without her knowledge. Although we identify with Jay, our inability to warn her of what she has yet to see makes us helpless to save her and provides the real terror of the film – that of our own safety.
I loved how reminiscent the film was of early slasher films, Halloween in particular. The music (by Disasterpeace) had a similar build up that was able to create the moody atmosphere and inspire fear of the monster’s closeness, without any visible changes. However, it wasn’t as memorable as the piano melody we all know and love. The initial scenes of suburbia and the main sisters talking about their crushes immediately set up the film to have a sexual focus and stalker-killer reminiscent of 1970s/1980s horror. If you didn’t get the Halloween vibe anywhere else, the scene of Jay in class seeing her ‘stalker’ out the window would be enough of a comparison.
Monroe plays into this teenage psyche that has been developed since the 1970s. We never really know how old any of these characters are: their parents don’t seem to care about any of these problems and they reference high school like it was years ago, yet they don’t seem to have matured beyond teenage anxieties. They barely seem to have matured enough to be having sex. They’re awkward and shy, and not fully comfortable with themselves. But that’s exactly the point of It Follows. This deadly monster holds the same fear many teenagers associate with STDs or the loss of their reputations.
Although it follows many clichés of scary movies, it manages to manipulate other genre conventions to keep us on our toes. Much of the tension happens in open spaces, during the day, and with loved ones. It ruins all of the places that are normally safe in scary movies, and never lets us relax once the initial story is set up. There’s also a severe lack of gore or death in the film, and yet we’re constantly terrified that it will happen.
Despite these surprisingly ingenious moments, David Robert Mitchell’s lack of experience shows in the script. Many scenes provide dialogue that fails to encompass teenage life, and creates a stilted and sometimes overly awkward exchange between characters.