It Follows (2015)

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threehalfstar

Horror movie villains are often our sadistic, cinematic moral police, sent to punish the corrupt masses (especially attractive, fornicating teenagers) for their sinful behavior. The curse haunting the sex-obsessed teenagers in It Follows, however, is slower, more cerebral than Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. It values psychological over physical torture. Its horror is omnipotent, never ceasing. It’s the kind of moral police that watches you from behind a camera, following your every move.

At the center of the demon’s wrath is Jay, a 19 year old college student who enjoys her idyllic suburban neighborhood with her sister Kelly and friends Paul & Yara. They spend their fall days drinking on porches, watching 50s horror movies, taking collective naps. Innocent, naive, happy.

Their feeling of security is soon shattered following an initially innocent sexual encounter that ends with Jay being drugged with a heavy dose of chloroform. She wakes up half-naked, strapped to a chair, and told by her brief fling Hugh that she has been infected with a sexually transmitted curse. The curse can take any human form and stalks the stricken in calm walking tempo. Its touch means death. The only way to rid yourself of the curse is to pass it along to someone else. Have sex or be killed.

The ingenious premise of It Follows and strong stylistic vision of director David Robert Mitchell turn Jay’s mundane suburban surroundings into a playground for dark forces. The curse takes shape in variety of ways; an abnormally tall man with his eyes gouged, the methodical walk of a naked demon woman. As these terrifying images invade her picturesque world, the juxtaposition makes them even more disturbing. The way the story unfolds in It Follows keeps you intrigued but doesn’t go into too much detail about the true nature of the curse. This keeps the curse vague, menacing. A sense of permanent dread and anxiety hangs over the movie. Rich Vreeland, stage name Disasterpiece, also kills it with his strange, ominous soundtrack that is reminiscent of not only John Carpenter, but video game music as well.

It Follows doesn’t get everything right. It loses momentum at several points and builds toward a somewhat tepid climax, but these are small grievances. Overall it is an exceptional horror film that plays around with horror genre tropes, but feels modern instead of regressive. There is also potent subtext about the nature of our sexual attachments and intimacy anxieties. The film can also be interpreted as a metaphor for AIDS and other STDs. Other movies like the body horror flick Contracted (about a zombie STD) have also played around with these themes, but none feel as refreshingly original as It Follows. If nothing else, it’s a convincing argument for abstinence if I’ve ever seen one.

-James Cohn

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