It Follows movie review
It Follows: written and directed by David Robert Mitchell
I get pretty freaked-out during scary movies, so when my husband said he’d booked evening tickets for indie thriller It Follows I was terrified for the entire day. And as it turns out, I had good reason to be.
The film opens at dusk with a scantily-clad girl running from a house in fear. She jumps into her car and drives to the beach, where she sits at the water’s edge in the dark. When the sun rises the next day the girl’s dead - and it’s clear from the state of her corpse that whoever, or whatever murdered her is no ordinary killer.
Next we meet 19 year old Jay (Maika Monroe), an ethereal blonde from a lower middle-class family whose ambitions centre around finding a boyfriend. She dates Hugh (Jake Weary), but things take a nasty turn after they make out and she finds herself infected with the kind of STD that nightmares are made of. From now on wherever she goes, whatever she does, a shape-shifting entity is going to follow her - and it’s got one thing on it’s mind.
Like the chain letter from hell, the only thing she can do to get rid of the curse is pass it on.
The film riffs on the classic horror themes of teen sex, sin and guilt. But as tension builds it becomes clear that the central idea is the inexorable nature of death. From the moment we’re born it creeps relentlessly towards us - and we don’t know when it will strike. (If you have heart problems, it might strike while you’re watching this film.)
If the story wasn’t creepy enough the film’s set in Detroit, where rows of derelict homes - brick houses with shattered windows lining rubbish-strewn roads - give the film a surreal edge. The set-dressing adds to the dreamlike quality of the movie. The slightly grubby old lamps, TV sets and duvet prints of the interior complement the dour autumnal tones of the exterior, and set the film in an uncertain present. Even the entity moves at a slow, interminable pace as it advances through shots that look as though they could have been crafted by Gregory Crewdson.
And then there’s the score - an 80s-inspired synth freak-out by Rich Vreeland. It’s pure genius - but I, for one, won’t be buying the soundtrack.
I don’t need a CD to remind me of this move - I have the feeling that It Follows is going to be creeping me out for a while.
2023 Burns fellow Kathryn van Beek has an MA from Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin with her two rescue cats.