A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter.
Horror films at their very best successfully tap into the primal fears and apprehensions of its audience. They not only remind us of the things we’re afraid of but challenge us to ask why they make us so afraid. They also inspire us to contemplate whether or not falling victim to our worst fears is something that can be avoided, and if so, at what cost. If that’s the kind of horror film you absolutely love, then It Follows was definitely made with you in mind.
It Follows made its debut at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was later distributed by Radius-TWC to the tune of both financial success and widespread critical acclaim. It is directed by David Robert Mitchell and stars Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, and Olivia Luccardi. It Follows is actually only the sophomore directing effort from the talented Mitchell, previously known for The Myth of the American Sleepover, but what an effort it is. Mitchell has cited many inspirations for the film, including recurring dreams he had when he was young of being followed.
The plotline tells the tale of teenager, Jay Height (Monroe). After doing what young, blossoming teens do best and having sex with her boyfriend, she soon realizes she’s being pursued by a dark supernatural entity. It eventually turns out that Jay became the target of the zombie-like entity via her previous sexual encounter. The only way she can shift its focus to somebody else is to have consensual sex with a new person, saving herself but effectively marking another for death in the process. The mysterious entity is made even creepier by the fact that it can take the form of literally anyone and can only be seen by the person it’s currently pursuing.
On a practical level, It Follows does an excellent job of being scary and unsettling. Most people deal with primal or lingering fears of being followed or pursued relentlessly by a dark figure they cannot understand or reason with and Mitchell does a terrific job capturing that feeling. However, it also deals with more expansive concerns literally everyone can relate to. At its core, It Follows isn’t really about sex. It’s about what it means to grow up, leave adolescence behind, and cope with the consequences of adulthood – consequences that can seem unfair and illogical at times. In other words, this is a film that’s unsettling because it reminds us that nothing easy and pure lasts forever, innocence included.
Mitchell does an excellent job of soaking It Follows in the kind of general dread you’d hope for in a film like this, also familiar in similar movies such as The Haunting of Molly Hartley, YellowBrickRoad and The Witch. He’s a master at using space, as well as various visual techniques, to bring his fictional world to life. Many shots and sequences mirror the underlying theme of the fearsome unknown to absolute perfection, adding to the unsettling horror of the story. The young actors and actresses of the cast each turn in wonderfully believable performances as well. That said, It Follows is a film any horror fan should see for many reasons. It’s deep, it’s dark, and it’s scary. Definitely add it to your watchlist and prepare for an unforgettable ride.