Movie Review: ‘It Follows,’ a horror movie for your mind

Douglas Markowitz


It can look like anyone. It can take the shape of a complete stranger or a close friend when it really wants to mess with you. It can only be seen by you, so good luck convincing anyone it’s real. It always moves in the same way: walking slowly, straight toward you, eyes staring with deadly intent. It knows it can take its time, for no matter how far you run or drive, it will always catch up. And when it does, it will brutalize you.

Graphic by Austin Branham
Graphic by Austin Branham

So goes the premise of It Follows, the indie horror sensation currently playing at the Sun-Ray Cinema in Five Points. Created by director and Florida State University film school grad David Robert Mitchell, “It” is certainly one of the more interesting monsters to grace the screen in recent years. And with its John Carpenter-esque dark-synth score and ageless suburban setting, the film evokes the slasher flicks of the late 1970s and 1980s. In those films, as per horror movie convention, the victims first to die are always the ones who distract themselves by boning. Sex is death, essentially. What has critics and fans talking so loudly about It Follows, however, is the way it flips this convention on its head. How do you get the monster to stop following you, you might wonder? Easy. Sleep with someone. It will pursue them until it kills them or they pass it to someone else. In this movie, sex, for those smart enough to use it correctly, is life.

Mitchell, his cast and crew cleverly build around these rules and exploit them to keep the audience vigilant. Jump scares are always misdirects, and thanks to some clever camerawork that includes several panoramic shots, we always see It hiding in plain sight, even when the characters don’t. The score, done by Disasterpeace, also alerts viewers to danger subconsciously. When It gets close enough, the pleasant synth melodies transition to buzzing alarms and heavy bass beats.

Clearly, this is a horror movie for film nerds, as there’s a lot to analyze throughout. As just a taste, what is to be made of the way out of It’s clutches? Certainly, It robs the joy from sex. To pass It to someone is to doom them if they’re not aware, and yet this is the only way to survive. The most obvious interpretation of It might be as a metaphor for STDs, but I noticed a pattern that led me to another answer. In all of its different forms, no matter what it looks like, It always wears white, the color of purity. Or else, it looks like a sexual abomination. The first time It gets close enough to kill, it appears as a young woman. She’s mangled. Her hair is in tatters. Her left breast hangs out. Clear fluid spills from between her thighs. In all its different forms, It mocks its victims for making the mistake that summoned it, the mistake of sexual intercourse. It is shame materialized.

While it may be fun to pick apart, the film fails in one very important way: it’s not particularly scary. Even I, who has probably seen a grand total of three horror films (two if you don’t count Jaws), was not scared. Wary, yes, but not terrified at all. This is perhaps the film’s greatest trick, however. It Follows doesn’t work on you with cheap scares and gross imagery (well, it does, but that’s not the main concern.) It simply haunts your mind. Maybe you won’t scream at the screen, but after you leave, you might think twice about putting the moves on your date.

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