A lot of superlatives are being thrown around about writer/director David Robert Mithcell’s IT FOLLOWS. While some may be a bit overblown, they’re all rooted in one undeniable truth – IT FOLLOWS is one of the best horror films of recent memory. Completely foregoing current popular fads like zombies, hauntings, home invasions, and possessions, Mitchell took a solitary, specific, and most crucially, unique concept and deftly developed it into a highly-stylized genre masterpiece.
IT FOLLOWS centers around Jay, played by Maika Monroe, who had recently cut her teeth in Adam Wingard’s THE GUEST. Jay has sex with a boy who then disturbingly confesses that he’s given her something – something that won’t stop until she’s dead. While this means of exposition may seem a little forward, it reiterates the simplicity of the film’s concept – here’s what’s happening, now deal with it. Not unlike in a magic-realist novel, there is neither a need nor the time to question what, why, or how. Out of fear of spoiling how IT FOLLOWS works, I won’t go into detail, but I will say that it is immensely creepy, and something that if you allow to marinate, will stick around and continue to unnerve you for some time after.
While IT FOLLOWS is certainly refreshing in its conventions and approach, it’s simultaneously entirely familiar, hearkening back to the golden age of genre filmmaking that was the 80s. It’s rightfully being compared to John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN (1978), the mother of the stalker-slasher genre IT FOLLOWS has quite possibly redefined. While it’s not a “slasher” film, IT FOLLOWS still retains HALLOWEEN’s DNA of a relentless, stalking figure, plodding pace, focus on suburban decay, and arresting score. Jay’s ragtag group of friends that support and help her throughout the film call to mind the heroic latchkey kids you’d see in a Spielberg production like THE GOONIES or Stephen King’s IT. And as I mentioned, the 80s blood of IT FOLLOWS is made even richer by video game composer Disasterpeace’s perfect score. It’s bold, unsettling, and downright fun.
Unlike the horror films that Hollywood is producing nowadays, IT FOLLOWS is absolutely gorgeous. Mitchell is a master of widescreen (seriously, see this thing in theaters if you can) and, along with cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, manages to provide an almost unprecedented amount of beautiful imagery for a “scary movie.” It’s as if IT FOLLOWS takes place in perpetual states of dusk & dawn, allowing the glowing hues of twilight to paint the scenes. Mitchell also deserves praise for impressively choreographed long-takes and 360 shots that slowly and tensely scan entire areas (if my memory serves me, there’s even a 1080 shot). While the action level is pretty high in IT FOLLOWS, Mitchell keeps things respectfully slow, letting the viewer take in each morsel of fear individually.
While some are trying to pin heavy messages on IT FOLLOWS, Mitchell claims he had little interest in any sort of real-world commentary – he simply saw it as a nightmare. And what a nightmare he’s crafted. By stripping away the bells and whistles, the whys and hows that bog down so many other could’ve-been-good horror films, Mitchell succeeded in making a minimalist horror masterpiece that won’t be seeing a challenger anytime soon.