Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Running Time: 100 mins
It Follows is an American film about a teenage girl who finds herself under pursuit by a mysterious entity after a sexual encounter.
I don’t scared by horror films too often. That’s not because I’m some brave, macho man, but simply because it’s a genre that, more often than not, lacks the ingenuity to really surprise and scare. It Follows, however, is one of those few horror movies that, for want of a better word, is properly terrifying.
Tense, dark and really rather sinister at times, It Follows takes a brilliantly simple premise and turns it into something deeply disturbing. What’s more, with potently atmospheric direction from David Robert Mitchell and a brilliant performance from Maika Monroe, there’s fear wherever you look with It Follows, and at its most unsettling moments, you’ll be rushing behind the sofa in an instant.
Now, one thing to understand about the horror genre is that a movie doesn’t necessarily need to be scary to be good. Sure, tension and unsettling eeriness is great to see, but some of the best horror movies of all time thrill with a passionate, unpredictable and often intensely emotional story, with the ability to use the characters’ fears and fight-or-flight reactions to exaggerate the drama to an extent that most films can’t.
However, while It Follows also impresses with some really unnerving tension throughout, what’s most striking about it is just how genuinely terrifying it is. Rather than sitting content with generic and frankly lazy jumpscares, the film sees our lead character relentlessly stalked by a silent yet very menacing entity. As much as she tries to escape it, the entity is always out there somewhere following her, and won’t stop until it captures her.
Now, you’d think that that premise would be ripe for a bunch of jumpscares, but what’s so great about It Follows is that it takes the bold and brave decision to show the entity straight up, mostly approaching our main character from ahead, and walking menacingly towards her, not stopping for any obstacles in its way.
And those scenes – where we see the entity approaching from the front – are utterly terrifying. It Follows doesn’t work on shock value to scare you, but rather the devastating nature of being approached head on by a threat, and you can’t do anything about it but run. It’s a fear that everybody can understand, and the sort of thing most people will have encountered in a nightmare or two, but to see it played out on screen in such bold and frightening fashion is really impressive to see.
Director David Robert Mitchell does a fantastic job at bringing that fear to life, using a powerfully dark, eerie atmosphere in tandem with a menacing and sinister presentation of the entity to really strike the fear of god into you whenever our leads come under threat.
Then, with a brilliant performance from Maika Monroe that really shows off her character’s extreme distress at being relentlessly pursued by this mysterious thing, those moments where she’s approached by it are almost unbearably scary, but perhaps some of the most effective and memorable moments in modern horror.
All in all, then, It Follows does a brilliant job at telling a good story that’s littered with tension and properly scary moments. However, the one thing that it can’t quite do is keep up that high standard right the way through the movie, and as the scariest moments represent impressive highs, so the quieter sequences prove to be disappointing lows.
Because, as terrified as I was at times by this movie, I never felt entirely captivated by it. Mitchell uses those scariest moments to brilliant effect, pulling you into what feels like a real-life nightmare, but in attempting to craft drama and emotion beyond those focal sequences, he doesn’t quite hit the right beats.
While Monroe’s continued distress at the situation is striking, her relationship with her friends who try to help is uninteresting, and the odd moment where the story introduces a note of stronger emotion or even romance feels totally out of place, and regularly ruins the intensity of what is otherwise a brilliantly uncomfortable watch.
And with that, too often does the film sag in between its most exciting moments, lacking the dramatic intrigue to keep the core tension going in the build-up to the next confrontation with the entity, and ultimately making It Follows more of an inconsistent watch than should have been the case.
Overall, it’s a very scary film, and there aren’t too many horror movies you can say that about in recent years, and with moments of brilliant tension and heart-stopping terror, not to mention atmopsheric directing and a striking lead performance, it’s a really good watch, albeit lacking the consistency and depth to really hit home at every moment, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.