Don’t have sex kids. Well, not unless you want to die horribly!
We all know, and Scream helped remind us that the rule of a horror movie is: get naughty in a horror film, and prepare yourself for a trouble! Only the protagonists who can keep it in their pants, are the ones who manage to survive. But no film has ever before literally taken that rule and ran with it (or walked being a more apt term). It Follows is a warning about the dangers of sex that your school nurse forgot to mention. Not only can you pick up an embarrassing itch, you could also be stalked by an entity ’til the very end and there is no GUM clinic with a cure. But how and why? We are never told. But in the opening scene a nervous young lover Hugh (Jake Weary) post-copulation, explains to his somewhat distraught lady friend Jay (Maika Monroe), that from now on this thing will stalk her until her dying day unless she also passes it on by having sex with someone else. But if they die, the curse comes back to the last victim. The being will appear in a human form, but can only walk and not be seen by anyone who hasn’t already been cursed. So from here the film plays out its delightfully creepy formula.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell has obviously been bathing himself in the world of horror in preparation for this chiller. From the 80’s John Carpenter synth-scores to the Dario Argento stylism, this is a movie that will be lapped up by horror enthusiasts. The twist is that, rather than a hockey-masked mad man with an axe, here we have an entity stalking its victims as casual as casual can be. Just relentlessly walking slowly towards its chosen, any-time, anywhere, but in the human guise of the victims imagination. Whether its a hot summer’s afternoon out with a kite, or sat in watching a re-run of Blossom, it will find you and it will tear you apart.
It’s refreshing not to have the cliché of a killer only appearing during a thunderstorm in the middle of the night and the biggest scares mainly happen in the most mundane environments. Mitchell does throw in a couple of jump scares, but on the whole, it is a film where the camera-work creates all of the tension. A figure slowly walking in the top hand of the frame, is it the thing? Or is it just a postman on his morning rounds? It’s a very Hitchcockian approach to terror, allow the audience to see the evil before the protagonist and then let the audience point at the screen screaming ” it’s behind you!” in classic pantomime fashion.
Mitchell has chosen wisely in not giving away a lot of the back story. It’s best leaving the audience left as puzzled as the films characters as to what’s going on and why which is for the best, as the more the audience thinks the more ludicrous it all becomes. Surely it would make more sense for there to be a massive gang bang so then everyone can see the entity coming and all help destroy it ? What would happen if the victim was on a boat or a plane? What if you only have a fumble in the back seat of a car? The premise can and probably will be up for spoofing. Surely another Scary Movie script is being written right this minute for an easy buck. But you have to take your hat off to a director who has chosen to try something new. It is refreshing to have a modern horror that doesn’t have to rely on CGI or balloon popping scares.
It has been a good while since a movie offered its audience to step into the shoes of the protagonist, but It Follows achieves this. What would you do? Shag your way around town hoping that it never comes back to haunt you? Or take responsibility for your own actions. This is an old fashioned horror made for modern times. What it lacks in real on-screen terror it makes up for in post-movie fear. You’re left thinking “am I the only one who can see the monk walking behind us ?”