“A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter.” — IMDb
I know I’m far from alone in this, but I LOVED this movie. It debuted at Cannes in 2014 and when it had its worldwide release in 2015 it grossed over $20 million. The writer and director, David Robert Mitchell, developed the movie and was inspired in part by recurring dreams he had in his youth about being followed. Aesthetically, Mitchell and director of photography, Mike Gioulakis, were inspired by the “surreal suburban imagery” of American photographer Gregory Crewdson. It is absolutely minimalist horror at its finest.
The story primarily follows Jay (Maika Monroe) as well as her sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe), her childhood friend, Paul (Keir Gilchrist, a favorite of mine), her friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and their neighbor, Greg (Daniel Zovatto). Jay has a frightening experience while on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary) wherein they sleep together and then he knocks her out with chloroform and she awakens and is informed that he has passed along some kind of mysterious, pursuing, murderous entity onto her… a curse of sorts. She is shaken but skeptical at first, until she starts to see evidence that he is right after all, and her and her friends try to figure out what “it” is and how to stop it.
Where do begin to count the all the ways that I love this movie? Firstly, the music is great. Honesty, I often don’t notice the music in many movies — not that the music is bad, per se, but I find that it’s sadly rare when the music truly FITS the mood of a film. Rich Vreeland, also known as Disasterpeace, scored It Follows and I think he succeeded in coming up with a soundtrack that is sufficiently sinister and foreboding. It helps to add to the claustrophobia of the entire film, the sick, slow dread.
They did an amazing job at creating a general sense of unease in the film. Between the settings, the weird combination of technology (Yara uses that awesome clamshell phone/e-reader, and yet only corded phones abound around them, for example), the wardrobe, and even the perceived temperature, you are never fully able to figure out WHAT is going on, and it throws you into this very subtle sense of confusion.
The adults in the movie are very intentionally kept out of focus — sometimes literally. It is meant to only focus on the teenagers and their mission, and I think in a way it adds to that sort of surreal atmosphere.
There are a few camera shots that stood out, but the main one for me was the wild 720-degree shot in the school hallway, panning right by one of the lurching creatures on its way around. Brilliant.
The whole thing has a very Stranger Things vibe, particularly because of the friends’ willingness to help Jay — they are just unwavering in their support and belief — and then solidified when the whole thing ends at the pool. Though I much prefer the atmosphere (and music!) of Stranger Things — basically what I’m saying is if you enjoyed this movie, go check out that show NOW. Funny, too, that Disasterpeace was actually asked to do the music for Stranger Things but he turned it down, citing a desire to not be too pigeonholed in the 80’s-inspired genre.
It is minimalist horror in the sense that we only actually see the full capabilities of “it” a handful of times throughout the movie (though when we do, it is super effective). It doesn’t focus on gore or even shock effects or jump scares. It’s just this slow burning, creeping dread… this feeling of not being able to escape no matter how hard you try. The “monster” in this movie is vague, undefined, and shifting, which I think gives it a lot of power. It’s not disgusting and deformed, it doesn’t have a disturbing back story, it isn’t cocky and taunting… it just IS. As Mitchell himself has said, “There’s no logic to it—you can’t really explain a nightmare.”
And then we have the ending, which is surprisingly romantic and intimate. Paul is willing to do anything for Jay — to even risk his own life in a pursuit to save hers — and it’s beautiful in a sad way.
Intelligent, daring, and thought-provoking… and it’s on Netflix, so you’ve got no excuse. Go!
Rating: 8/10 | Director: David Robert Mitchell | Writer: David Robert Mitchell | Music: Disasterpeace (aka Richard Vreeland) | Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto