I recently saw David Robert Mitchell’s new horror film It Follows.
I think I love this film. It’s unique, weird, cool, disturbing, and has moments of holy shit terror. Saw it by myself in an empty theatre so I felt completely fine with screaming, “No!!” whenever I damn well pleased. In fact, I think that might be the best way to view the film. So, if you go to see it but find that there are others also in the theatre, kindly ask them to leave. I’m sure they will understand.
It Follows is about a sexually transmitted curse that finds its way to a young woman. She’s told that a thing that can look like anyone it chooses will follow her to the ends of the earth. Sometimes it’ll look like someone you know, sometimes it’ll look like a horrifying stranger. It’s not fast, but it never stops, it’s always out there, always following you. It means to kill the girl and her only way to get rid of the curse is to pass it on, but of course it’s never that easy.
The story is a unique blend urban legend curses, the terror of disease, plus loads of paranoia, madness, all with a backdrop of urban decay. The young cast is really good, especially the lead Maika Monroe. And I love the film’s score by Disasterpeace, which is a blend of John Carpenter, Blade Runner, and Trent Reznor. It’s one of my favorite film scores in a long time.
And oh yeah, I’m forgetting perhaps the most important thing: It Follows scared the hell out of me.
I think different kinds of horror films scare different people. Person A thinks jump scares are what make a horror film successful. Person B thinks it’s the blood and gore. Person C says it’s the disturbing themes. Person D doesn't like clowns. Person E, F, G, H, I, J, K… they all got their something.
Me? I’m most frightened by menacing camerawork, mood, and the director’s ability to build an overwhelming sense of dread. Cinema of unease.
CGI and fast-cutting edits do a disservice to most horror films, in my opinion. CGI may help make certain things come alive, but at least some part of your brain knows the thing isn’t really there, that you’re looking at a movie trick. Even though fake blood is also a trick, the mind accepts it in a different way because it’s clearly in camera. Similarly, fast cuts can make for a visceral, unpleasant horror experience, but they don’t build a sense of dread or deliver the creeps. I like it more when the director lets the camera linger there and makes everything in frame as real as possible. I get lost in the film, like the visuals have taken me somewhere I’d rather not be. That moment when I get lost, like I’m trapped there in the box the camera has made for the audience, that’s when my barriers fall away just enough to get the bejesus scared out of me.
Many of the horror films that scared me the most operate this way. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has its long, menacing steadycam shots that go through the halls of the Overlook. When the camera follows little Danny into a hall and spots the girls in blue, I’m always shaken up when the film assaults you with the sight of their dead bodies and all the blood. Kiyoshi Kurosawa films in a similar fashion. Films like Cure, Pulse, and Charisma have an ominous feel to them, which is the result of camerawork, music, lighting, and knowing when to cut to the next shot and when to let the scene linger. He conjures up dread in almost every scene. Other films like Alien, The Blair Witch Project, The Ring, The Exorcist, The Descent, and John Carpenter’s Halloween, they all scare me because the visuals and sound create an air of menace that other horror films don’t often have the patience for. As such, they’re some of my favorite horror films. Sure, rewatching them softens the scares, but I still return to them often because I admire the craft.
It Follows has a perfectly fine screenplay, but the film reaches modern classic status because of its threatening cinematography and its amazing score. Director Mitchell knows he has to be patient to set the hook before delivering the biggest scares. It pays off, and we get some truly great scenes. This sort of movie may not frighten everyone – those in need of blood and gore will find little to like here – but for those who like creepy, tense horror, It Follows is pretty great.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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