It is rare for a horror film to truly scare an audience. A well-placed jump scare will give you that jolt of adrenaline or a scary sequence will make you nervously laugh – but it is hard to come by a film that genuinely instills existential fear and dread as you watch and long after the credits roll. It Follows is one of those films.
Directed by David Robert Mitchell and released in 2014, the film follows 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe)- who after a sexual encounter with her date Hugh (Jake Weary) finds herself relentlessly pursued by a supernatural entity. Mitchell presents some really interesting ideas about sex through the curse and how it works, and there are many think pieces diving into different interpretations, but here we’re going to talk about how this concept alone is absolutely terrifying and is made even more frightening thanks to the direction and technical craft.
Most horror films will feature an antagonistic threat that can be defeated, or at least pushed back, but the monster of It Follows is truly unstoppable. It takes the form of different strangers- sometimes as loved ones and family members- and slowly walks towards its victim for the kill. It cannot be killed or banished. The curse of having the entity follow you can be passed onto someone else by having sex with them, but if that person is killed the curse goes back to the previous victim. Even if dozens of people took on the curse after you, there is still that chance that it could come back for you at some unexpected point if things go south for the others. There truly is no escape.
Mitchell isn’t shy about presenting the thing to the audience which is what makes it so terrifying. Classic movie monsters benefit from not being shown too much as to get the idea across of ‘fearing the unknown’ but in It Follows the fear is knowing that threat is constantly there- in the distance, walking towards you, with the sole intent of killing you. The wide-angled, 360-degree shots are perfect for building suspense and tension; you’ll find yourself scanning every inch of the frame for any signs. Crowded scenes are worse: anyone could be a threat as people simply walk about doing their daily activities. Every scene is wrought with tension but one stands out as a shining example of how horrific the monster and the concept are. The cast of characters is sat on a beach gazing out towards the water and in the background, a figure walks towards the group. At this point, we assume it is Yara (Olivia Luccardi), the last member of the group, but then the camera flips the angle and we find she is actually in the sea. Cutting back to the original angle we see the figure, who is clearly not Yara, getting closer and closer to the unsuspecting teens.
No conversation can be had about It Follows without discussing the score. Composed by Richard Vreeland, but better known as Disasterpeace, the music is an electronic score that fits in with the film’s 1980’s influences and aesthetic. Whilst some of the tracks are rather calm and melancholic, such as Jay’s theme, it is when the monster appears the score becomes an audio nightmare. The opening sequence starts with thunderous, bassy thuds before building up a scratchy chiptune rhythm until it crescendos with high-pitched, sharp notes- like the violins from Psycho if they were played by a malevolent electronic music kit. Each horror sequence is scored with an equally alarming piece of music that assaults the senses. Fused with the terrifying imagery, it makes for a distressing audio-visual experience that is never annoying but absolutely unnerving.
It Follows went on to become a hit with the critics and has gained a bit of a following with its fans; thanks to the originality of the concept, the technical craft on display, and Monroe’s performance (who definitely deserves more prolific roles). What the film will be remembered for most however is just how genuinely scary it is- even after watching it countless times I guarantee It Follows will stay with you for some time, like some sort of entity forever following you…