April 15, 2015 2 Comments
I’ve always liked it when films can make something innocuous terrifying or thrilling. Like normal household objects. Or driving really slowly. Take the concept of It Follows for instance – the entire film is based on a solitary creature that follows its victims by walking towards them. That’s it. The victim can run away, can travel to remote locations, and can quite easily get away from the monster. But the persistence is terrifying. Despite the creature’s sluggish pace, no matter how far you run, or how far you go, it will find you. And unlike us, it doesn’t tire.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is the latest to be cursed by the terrifying creature. After having what would could be a romantic date in another movie – minus the unsavoury chloroforming of course – Jay learns that she’s caught something from her latest tryst – a sexually-transmitted demon. Thankfully, Jeff (Jake Weary), the gent who passed the demon on to her, explains the rules of the creature (and film): the creature is invisible to anyone who has not been infected with it, the creature will take different forms so you may not recognize it at first, the creature can be “passed on” to someone else through sex, and if it catches up to you, it will kill you. Oh, and if it kills the last person you infected, then it’s coming after you again. There’s no escaping it.
There’s other rules (spoken and unspoken) other than those above, but we only realize them when Jay does. For example, the creature is never seen until Jay is cursed, despite several scenes with the creature beforehand. There is something almost comic about beginning the film with a scene of a person half-jogging in circles in a panic, until you realize what that person is running from.
It Follows creates a constant sense of dread, and kudos must be given to the film’s soundtrack by Disasterpiece. It has an 80s throwback feel with lots of synthesizers, but every song is dark and ominous, and the music often invades the action happening onscreen and overwhelms it…almost like that creature when it gets too close.
The world of It Follows is never clearly defined, and neither are the characters. This works to the film’s advantage to create a dreamy – or nightmarish – unbalancing of the audience. At first, it seems like the movie is taking place in the 80s, complete with a black-and-white television, an old-school movie theatre playing Charade, and jean jackets and knee-high socks. And then a character pulls out a cell phone, and another has an e-reader shaped like a clamshell, and suddenly were not sure what time period we’re in. And then Jay, who at first seems to be the older sister of Kelly (Lili Sepe), gets closer with Kelly’s friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist), and their history together seems to suggest that they could be the same age. Maybe she’s twins with Kelly? Who knows. It doesn’t really matter, or need to be answered – it’s just the constant unease and feeling of something being – off – with this world and characters that creates a sustained tension throughout the film’s running time.
This film, and the other recently released (and equally critically-acclaimed) horror film The Babadook, do something I can’t remember experiencing before, but think should be in every horror from now on: audience paranoia. In this film, once we’ve been told the creature can look like anyone and will walk towards the victim, every extra suddenly becomes the creature that the audience sees but the characters don’t (and sometimes, it’s just an extra, but the terror is still there). With The Babadook, the creature is a black top-hat-wearing penguin-type creature, and the film litters the background of scenes with images that look slightly similar, giving off the sense the monster is in every frame. The audience’s imagination runs wild with this imagery, and it’s more terrifying than any “jump scare” could ever be.
It feels like horror films may be going through something of a renaissance. The “teen-slasher” era appears to be over, and those working in the genre are creatively unearthing what will scare us next. It’s a very exciting time for the genre, and It Follows will hopefully pave the way for more high-concept works that may seem laughable at first glance (“a sexually-transmitted demon? Really?”), to something deeply disturbing.