The title of this film is also the basic description of the problem – it follows. “It”, in this case, is a supernatural creature that stalks and kills people. It doesn’t run, and it isn’t fanged or clawed. It looks like a person – any given person, whoever it chooses – and it walks. Slowly, inexorably, it walks towards its chosen victim.
Victimhood is transferable through sex; a target who has sex with someone passes the monster on to that person. The film focuses on one primary character, Jay, and her attempts to escape the monster after having had it passed to her.
There’s an obvious STD metaphor going on, but the film doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Messages can be understood, parallels can be drawn, but It Follows manages subtlety. For a film about sexually-transmitted murder, it’s a lot less obviously socially conservative than you’d expect.
The acting is a definite strong point – each actor fits their archetype and fills their role well. The siblings even look related, which is a particular bugbear of mine. The strong acting is complemented by the script – the writer does conversation well, managing to make it sound relaxed while still adding, rather than distracting, from the plot.
The cast is small, focusing on a small group of friends with all supporting characters only briefly present and almost always in the background. That’s a deliberate and effective design choice; in a film about strangers slowly approaching, making almost everyone a stranger who may or may not be the monster creates long-lasting tension.
It Follows doesn’t rely on jump scares and shock value at all. Instead, the whole thing is thoughtful and suspenseful – even when the pace picks up towards the climax, the horror comes from the creeping inevitability of the monster, not from fast-paced movement or violence. In a genre saturated with the same tired techniques, it’s refreshing.
Visually, the film is appealing. The aesthetic is deliberately hard to pin down to an era or season, so that the film seems to exist in a little bubble of disconnected, although distinctly American, time. Clever, cautious use of the camera adds significance and tension in the right places – the whole thing feels slow and steady without ever dragging. Again, it’s a deliberate choice that works with the specific nature of the horror.
One thing that did nag at me about It Follows is the nature of the monster. The horror comes from the remorseless nature of the pursuit, but I can’t avoid the thought that it’s a solvable problem. Given a monster that is so rule-bound and deliberate, a host of possible solutions suggest themselves. It’s slightly jarring when the characters don’t consider any of them, opting instead to panic well before that seems reasonable.
It’s a common problem in horror – if the audience thinks they could do better than the characters, then the narrative stops being scary and becomes farcical. It Follows is a very well-made film, but a little elaboration about the monster, or experimentation on the part of the characters, would have elevated it higher.
In all, it’s a beautiful film that attempts to do interesting things. It Follows is let down a little by the plot, which limits how horrifying it can really be, but it was enjoyable and I’m all for well-crafted and thoughtful horror films.