'It Follows' Review: The Ghost of STDs Past
Fans of horror know the mark of quality for a film is a delicate balancing act between nearly mandatory genre tropes, and edge-of-the-seat, keep-you-guessing originality. It’s an alchemy that It Follows executes better than any horror film in recent memory. It continually scares and surprises, and still hits all of the same adrenaline buttons that countless horror classics have before.
Writer/ director David Robert Mitchell has taken to the familiar ground of sexually charged horror and staked out his own permanent spot. After sleeping with her latest beau, 19 year old Jay, played by Maika Monroe, learns that she has contracted a sexually transmitted curse. Wherever she goes, there will be a malicious, shape shifting demonic presence following her, unless she sleeps with someone else and passes the curse onto them. It’s a premise that allows for plenty of rumination on teenage fears about sex, relationships, and growing up, while never becoming cumbersome or getting in the way of the films steady trot into terror. It also doesn’t hurt that the direction is superb, and the driving soundtrack delivered by chip-tune legend "Disasterpeace" is one of the best since Halloween.
Maika delivers a solid and refreshingly natural performance as Jay. Rather than the typical melodrama loaded into many horror films, the relationships between Jay and her friends plays out more like Linklater than Wes Craven. Laid seamlessly in with the supernatural element of the film is an understated and well executed coming of age love story between Jay and her childhood friend Paul, a sweet kid who just wishes he could be a little more man than boy, played by Keir Gilchrist. Instead of sexy weekend getaways at haunted cabins, there are late night hang outs at home and sneaking cigarettes in their Detroit suburb. This can slow the pace of the film a bit, but it more than makes up for that with what it adds to the tone and subtext.
Rounding out Jays’ circle of friends are her sister Kelly, played by Lili Sepe, their nerdy Dostoyevsky quoting friend Yara, played by Olivia Luccardi, and a bad boy next door, played by Daniel Zovatto. As a group they all stick by their stricken friend, willing to go to any length to save her from her haunting situation. There are great performances all around here, but one can’t help but feel that the script doesn’t give them much to do. In the final climactic moments you almost forget that anyone is there besides Jay and Paul. That’s a shame, because we’re given a real sense of each of these characters over the course of the film, and to watch a good portion of them simply fade into the background is a bit disappointing.
A good horror film is always focused. It knows exactly what it is. It Follows is as focused and punching as its title and trailer tagline: It Doesn’t Think, It Doesn’t Feel, It Follows.
Final Say: Watch It