It seems that Hollywood just can’t get horror movies right anymore. In the past decade, I’ve seen four horror films that I genuinely enjoy, and even those offered nothing new to the genre. Not since The Blair Witch Project has something fresh happened in horror. This is a big reason why they fail to scare us anymore. We’ve seen pretty much everything they do in other movies and, usually, done better. There are only so many times you can be jump scared until there are no scenarios left that you can’t anticipate. None of this stops the marketing machine from hyping every horror movie as “the scariest” or “the greatest” to be released since that studio’s previous horror film. They release footage from “real” audiences watching and being “terrified” cut with some snippets of the movie. You get no feel of any real story attached to the movie, but you’re supposed to go see it because it looks really scary. I still go into the theater naively hoping that it will actually be the “scariest” or “greatest” horror movie I’ve ever seen, but 96% of the time I still leave disappointed. So when It Follows started to roll out trailers, making the same claims, I was skeptical to say the least.
After carefree teenager Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), for the first time, she learns that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Death, Jay learns, will creep inexorably toward her as either a friend or a stranger. Jay’s friends don’t believe her seemingly paranoid ravings until they too begin to see the phantom assassins and band together to help her flee or defend herself.
Even by the description, there seems to be nothing special about this movie. The trailers, on the other hand, they promised something with substance. Everything feels so real while you’re watching it, and that really helps to pull you in. You really feel like these are all people that you could know or be friends with. It Follows might not provide the jump scares that a lot of other, lesser horror movies do, but it offers something far better and something that has been lacking in recent years: dread. There were maybe one or two times where I legitimately jumped (which is a chore for any horror film), but my nerves were constantly on edge the entire time. I found myself constantly surveying the background of each scene. How could you not? The shots were perfectly set up to allow just enough time to maybe see something before the camera would cut away. Throughout every second of the movie, I was genuinely concerned if Jay and her friends would make it through.
The cast of this movie is really one-of-a-kind. Every one of them plays their part wonderfully. From Keir Gilchrist’s painfully awkward geek, Paul, to Daniel Zovatto’s tough-guy neighbor, Greg, everybody has been perfectly cast and do their job. The true breakout of this movie is obviously Maika Monroe. She gives the most realistic performance of the film. I can feel the terror pouring from her eyes in every scene and feel genuine worry for her. I do feel that it’s important to mention that this movie also has Jake Weary in it. For those unaware, Jake Weary played in the atrocious Zombeavers. I would like to note that he has been fully redeemed in my eyes, even in the small amount of time he was in It Follows.
It Follows is a peculiar case in that it offers nothing spectacularly new, but it is the single most refreshing horror movie to be released since Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It Follows is clearly aware of its genre and plays with a lot of the horror movie tropes, but manages to not break the fourth wall at all. Even as a relatively obvious allegory for promiscuity in teenagers today, the story is simple yet brilliant. The director, David Robert Mitchell, knows that no movie, especially horror movies, works without proper character development and an intriguing story. The mentality of most studios when it comes to horror movies seems to be, “I’ll give them bitches jump scares; bitches love jump scares.” News Flash: We don’t want Jump Scare: The Movie! It Follows is the bar that every horror movie should try to beat. If you haven’t done so, go watch this ASAP!
Shining Moment: The beach scene. It was perfectly shot to make you feel happy in one instance and absolute terror the next.
All Images Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC