It Follows is so good I’m embarrassed I didn’t get off my ass and see it sooner. Watching It Follows is like seeing Halloween for the first time. It Follows eases the pain of John Carpenter’s retirement. Best of all, It Follows is terrifying because you never quite know what “It” is or why it follows. I’m trying to remember the last time a horror film this good came along and I’m drawing a blank.
That’s how good It Follows is. It’s the Fury Road of horror movies.
The main character is a nineteen year old woman who has consensual sex with a young man in his car. He then informs her he’s just infected her with a sexually-transmitted curse. Before attempting to leave her life for good, he gives her some tips: Stay out of buildings that don’t have multiple exits (“It’s slow, but it’s not stupid”) and pass it on to someone else as soon as possible… because if and when it gets the next victim, it’ll come back after her. Then it’ll come after him and go right down the line of every one else who’s ever been cursed with it.
At this point, there’s so much bullshit in which an average film would have gladly spun its tires: The “parents don’t understand” angle. The “cops think you’re lying” angle. The “my friends are concerned, but not very supportive because they think I’m going crazy” angle. We’ve seen that shit a million times, but It Follows spares us the usual routines. It knows when to show the monster. Knows when to leave it to our imagination, too… it’s one of the rare films which understands both methods can be effective, instead of boring us with only one or the other.
I can’t remember the last time a movie scared me. Silence of the Lambs maybe? Christ, that was over twenty years ago. Filmmakers have been impotent ever since.
I remember watching a lot of horror films in which the teenagers were played by adults. When I actually became a teenager, nothing was more groan-inducing than watching out-of-touch adults try to write and deliver “teen dialogue.” It still grates on me. The rule doesn’t only afflict horror—horror films probably got it right more than the other genres ever did. Even the kids on the Emmy-winning The Sopranos were unbelievable horseshit. It’s almost as if adults really don’t understand.
The teenagers in It Follows behave like real teenagers. Not only are they actually played by real teenagers, writer/director David Robert Mitchell knows how to write them. (Remember that name. He’s a miracle.) Adding to the realism is the fact the film isn’t disillusioned by Hollywood’s misinformed fantasy of suburban life. The titular “It” of the film stalks real American streets, pursuing the heroine across eerily familiar scenery. It’s such a stripped and honest look at what passes as the American dream that you can’t help but believe this is real life.
Forgive me if this review becomes flowery, but I’m in love—walking on clouds, heart swelling, music in my ears, all that shit. I cherished every second of this movie. There wasn’t a single moment I took my eyes off the screen, not even to check the time. Jesus, this is everything I’ve wanted from a horror movie for a very long time. It Follows gives us characters we actually give a shit about so we can care when they’re in danger.
So many movies like this fall apart completely by the third act, but the climax was the most terrifying, most entertaining part of the entire movie for me. It draws strength from the fact the teenagers’ plan is exactly the kind of plan teenagers would attempt. And whereas so many other horror movies come up with bogus reasons for not bringing in the cops, “It” is such an enigma the characters simply can’t call the cops. They really are in the situation alone.
Maybe it’s safe to say 2015 is the year horror finally and triumphantly came out of its decade-long slump.