Is there any genre that has defined a decade as much as horror defined the ‘80s – and visa versa, of course
From The Thing to Day of the Dead, they brought psychological insight to a form otherwise defined by B-movie schlock. However well worn they’ve have since become, It Follows proves it’s possible to breathe new terror into these same tropes.
A quiet suburban street in John Carpenter world; a door bursts open. A girl emerges, dressed in a nightgown, clearly panicked. Disasterpeace’s relentless static-y synth score pursues her. The nature of the threat is revealed but never explained: a supernatural being, at measured pace and in shifting human form, tracks down and horrifically kills to whomever a curse has been transferred.
The lumbering, implacable monster is not all that links It Follows to its predecessors. As nineteen-year-old Jay (The Guest’s Maika Monroe) is to learn to her peril, the medium of transference is sex. As Jay struggles whether to “pass it on” – dweeby friend and hanger-on Paul (Keir Gilchrist) is a well-meaning candidate – she first has to evade her pursuer.
As with the best horror, David Robert Mitchell’s latest is, in parts, almost unwatchable. The tension and dread ratchet up to almost unbearable levels, as, whether hiding in her bedroom or fleeing through the woods, Jay knows the creature will eventually catch up with her. It Follows is horror defined mostly through absence – like that of parental figures, for instance – and all the more effective for it.
The film also succeeds in capturing the awkward intimacy between teenagers just beginning to come to terms with sexual attraction. Sex, in this case, becomes a weapon, the STD equivalent of the tape from The Ring. Mitchell’s knack for the voyeuristic, vis-a-vis extended tracking shots and naturalistic conversation, make for an all-too-real exercise in foreboding.
Almost postmodern in its minimalism, It Follows shows that it’s possible to turn the slasher film into a work of serious criticism, to make something almost entirely new out of whole cloth. The creature’s victims are few and far between, its background a mystery: it merely is, it follows and it kills. The only question is how to survive.