It Follows – A twisted take on the classic teen horror movie

We all know by now that in horror films, sex equals death. How many times in these types of films have horny teens felt the pointy end of a blade while getting their rocks off? This classic horror trope is also the central idea behind It Follows (2014), a film written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (who previously made The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)). However Mitchell hasn’t just redone this definitive concept – he’s mixed it up and created a hell of a new spin on it. Because in It Follows, sex might mean death, but it can also be an escape…

It Follows (2014)

The simple beauty and underlying terror of It Follows lies in the use of the classic monster. After one night of passion, average American teen Jay (Maika Monroe), finds herself in the grip of a deadly curse – a curse which plagues her with visions of a terrifying entity that begins to follow her. There’s no running, the monster stalking her slowly. It can take any form, be it someone she knows, a stranger or something more fearful. And she is the only one who can see it. It is this brilliant idea that writer and director David Robert Mitchell uses to heightened effect in order to create a fascinating sense of dread and paranoia throughout. Pretty soon even we are doubting who in the background is real and who might be a threat, especially when it is only us who sees the person approaching – a terrific concept Mitchell uses to deliciously build the tension.

Mitchell’s superb script takes further horror tropes, mixes them up and uses them in fresh, exciting ways. For example, with Jay – young, happy, with plenty of friends and living in quiet (i.e.: dull) American suburbia – Mitchell has created a modern-day twist on the idea of the virginal ‘Final Girl’. Jay is instead a realistically portrayed teen who can think for herself and who we know is no virgin. And although sex might have given her the curse – again an idea used throughout countless horrors – sex can also be her saviour, as she can use it temporarily pass the curse to someone else, a concept that presents a horrifying moral dilemma to Jay.

Jay (Maika Monroe) suddenly finds herself victim to a horrifying curse...

Another teen horror trope Mitchell rewrites in It Follows is with his other characters. Teen horror films usually throw in an annoying stereotypical Jock or blonde bimbo who we instantly hate and who are obviously destined for the chopping board (especially if they happen to go wandering off by themselves). But Mitchell’s characterisation is spot on, making all his main characters incredibly likeable and realistic, as do the brilliant performances from the cast. In particular Maika Monroe is absolutely perfect in the lead role as the resilient teen Jay, who after her standout turn in The Guest (2014), is fast carving a path for herself as interesting female leads in edgy, unusual films. These great performances and likeable characters in turn make It Follows all the more terrifying to watch, as we wait in horror to see who will next fall victim to the monster.

While his script is perfect though, it is Mitchell’s taut direction that stands out and makes this a genuinely unnerving modern horror film unlike so many others. Sure there are plenty of the usual jump scares (some of which are incredibly unexpected), but the real terror comes when Mitchell ekes out moments in which we can practically see the scares coming, as he teases us for a moment longer before letting the tension go…and then hitting us with an even bigger scare. Another strangely standout aspect is the overall feel of the film, mostly through Mitchell’s choice of setting and décor. Rather than setting it in a specific time, Mitchell never states when the story takes place, using a fascinating array of objects of both past and modern technology – old TV’s playing old shows, old electrical items, a modern-day E-Reader. This creates a fascinating and oddly weird, dreamlike feeling throughout, almost as if the entire film is taking place within someone’s lucid nightmare – another horrifying concept that is almost strangely disorientating at times.

Jay goes on the run to escape the deadly monster...

This timeless aspect, as well as the electro synth soundtrack which is also used to chilling effect, are all part of the 80s horror film vibe that Mitchell employs throughout. In fact there is more than one comparison to be made between this and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Yet it is when Mitchell is twisting the usual horror tropes, bending the rules and putting a new spin on it that makes It Follows a standout film and something that is truly terrifying to watch. Every aspect of the film, from the performances, to the design, and specifically David Robert Mitchell’s solid direction, ensures his film crawls under your skin and stays there for days after you’ve seen it. You’ll be checking over your shoulder to see who’s behind you for a long, long time…

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~ by square-eyed-geek on February 27, 2015.

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