Alright I’ll say it: horror movies these days suck eggs. With the likes of Annabelle, Ouija, The Conjuring and the Paranormal Activity franchise, Hollywood has sucked out any interest I had in scary mainstream movies. Nowadays I have to look harder for the generally unsettling motion pictures. The scariest movie I saw last year was The Babadook, which was primarily available on Video On Demand and barely received a theatrical release. The independent scene seems to be the place to find the most disturbing and well-made horror films in the business. Case in point: It Follows.
The second feature from writer/director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) involves precocious teenage blonde Jay (Maika Monroe) going on a date with handsome loner Hugh (Jake Weary). When Jay has sex with Hugh in his old muscle car, Hugh tells her the unfortunate news that she will now be followed by… something. It can look like a familiar face or a total stranger, it will walk toward you without any sign of hesitation, and it will not stop for any reason. Hugh tells her the only thing she can do is “pass it on” by doing the deed with someone else. Accompanied by her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and third-wheel Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Jay starts becoming more afraid as the mysterious “it” starts creeping more and more into her life.
It Follows has been billed by sites like The Dissolve as “one of the most striking American horror films in years.” While the plot sounds like something parents would use to scare the kids off of getting nookie, the funny thing is that It Follows is not entirely like a horror movie. It’s more like an art house film disguised as a spook-fest. It features beautifully composed shots of the low-lit suburbs of vaguely identified towns in Michigan from cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, not to mention the exceptionally creepy synth score by Rich Vreeland (John Carpenter would be very jealous). The acting here is also impressive, certainly one of the most convincing portrayals of suburban teens I’ve seen a movie in quite some time. It’s also strange how ambiguous the time the movie appears to be in, like the 1980s and 2000s merged into one weird alternate dimension from an episode of The Twilight Zone.
The biggest point of interest for It Follows is that it’s not that scary. Don’t get me wrong, there is a great sense of dread building throughout the movie and some very disturbing scenes involving the “it” in question. But as far as straight-up horrifying moments, there is little to be found. That’s why it’s so hard for me to call It Follows a horror movie, and easier to call it a suspense-thriller. Regardless, It Follows is so intriguing and refreshing in its focus on establishing atmosphere than jump scares. It’s a tad disappointing that this won’t be as embraced as, say, the next Conjuring movie, but hopefully It Follows is a sign of a new engrossing style of cinema. Not entirely perfect, but certainly walking in the right direction. It will certainly be a challenge to see another movie even remotely like It Follows.