Horror films should follow in the steps of “It Follows”

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

One of the many things that doesn’t follow the horror genre is a decent reputation. However, with David Robert Mitchell’s new horror film, “It Follows,” the horror genre seems to be working incredibly hard to ditch a stigma that has developed over the past few years due to the repeated release of shoddy, unkempt horror films.

“It Follows” tells the tale of Jay Height (Maika Monroe), who like most teenagers in horror films has an insatiable desire for sex. After a night of intercourse with a young man who goes by the name of “Hugh,” she begins to notice that there is something wrong. She’s then followed by an unknown, horny and unstoppable supernatural being who can be anyone at any time and will stop at nothing to get to her. With the help of her friends, Jay must find a way to stop the monster or simply pass it on much like it was passed to herself.

“It Follows” is a well-crafted horror film that has been touted as the best horror film of 2015 and has been compared to indie horror masterpieces like 2014’s “The Babadook.” Its visual style is different and unlike many mainstream horror films that rely on jump scares and gore,

“It Follows” is unique in the terror it brings to the theater. Mitchell plays heavily with the camera and its framing to add extra tension to the film. The cinematography focuses heavily on what’s in the background, which helps reinforce the idea that something is in pursuit, which effectively heightens tension. The film’s location is also a contributor to its visual aesthetic. The story takes place in Detroit, Michigan, which is an uncanny place to shoot a horror film. The dilapidated buildings that riddle Detroit’s streets gives the movie a unique environment to play with.

Most horror films make the mistake of only focusing on jump scares or gore, which makes them both boring and lazy. However, “It Follows” is unique in its lack of cheap scares. And given that our antagonist is this slow-moving, unrelenting thing that the audience should be able to spot a mile away, Mitchell weaves in perfect sequences that will throw the audience off.

For example, in one scene we see Jay’s friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi) walking in the background behind our main character who is lounging on a beach. The audience thinks it’s actually Jay’s friend. But, with some slow movement of the camera, we see another Yara in the distance playing in the water, and interacting with our character. This suspense is further enhanced by the fact that the only person who can see the monster is the main character. Consistently notable sequences like these make the movie truly frightening.

The film has very little exposition. As much as ambiguity and vagueness are used with great effectiveness, they are also the film’s biggest crutch. The audience will never know what the It that follows is. One might say that it adds to the scariness of film, but not knowing what the thing is means that there is no way to combat it — therefore there is no proper end to the film.

The movie also suffers from weak payoffs for the things the film sets up.  For example, the movie’s opening scene starts with a young woman literally broken in half. Yet in the second act of the film, we only see one person dying. Most of the characters that we see onscreen are just there; they don’t really do anything. This begs the question: Why were most of the cast even in this film if they weren’t integral to the main plot? And when we do get to our one character dying it’s not as dramatic as the opening sequence panned it out to be, nor is it as intense as the chase itself made it out to be.

“It Follows” is a unique piece of work that adheres to a certain style. Its cinematography and location make it visually incredible. The film weaves its visual style into its horror, choosing to focus on the chase and tension rather than simple jump scares. However, the film focuses heavily on style and lacks an ending. But, even so, horror films should still try to follow in the footsteps of this film to learn the true meaning of terror.

Rating: 4 stars

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