Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi
Directed By: David Robert Mitchell
Plot: There’s a mysterious force following teens after sexual encounters. Jay (Monroe) has this curse passed to her, and spends the film trying to hide from it, figuring out how to stop it, and deciding whether or not to transfer the curse to someone else. Only people cursed by it can see it, and it can appear as anyone.
What Works: This is one of the best horror films of the last 10 years. Hands down. I have a love/hate relationship with this genre, which is plagued by jump scares nowadays. I often wait for a horror film to land, to find out if it is a legitimate contender, or just another film full of nonsense. I’m a little behind on It Follows, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for it, and it deserves all the praise it gets. It has a few jump scares, but they’re not out of place or there for no reason. No dogs jumping at the camera. It’s one of the best shot horror films I’ve seen, always using camera angle to its advantage. It lets you see what it wants you to see, because this film is all about an entity that not everyone can see. Maika Monroe does some great work here as our final girl, and I love that the film plays with a lot of common horror tropes, but uses them effectively. There’s the trope about having sex in a horror film can kill you, which is basically the core of this film. Then there’s the trope about how killers always walk everywhere, which is mirrored here as “It” only walks. If you drive far enough, you’ll buy yourself some time to think. Sadly, no one ever thinks to get on a plane and fly to an island. I found myself wondering… if you flew to another continent, would it swim to follow you? This thing doesn’t seem to enjoy swimming, so I wonder if it would give up. It CAN swim, it just chooses not to at times. So maybe it wouldn’t be so crazy about swimming to England. This film does an excellent job building tension, and keeping you invested in every moment. At any point, It could be walking up, so you can’t let your guard down.
What Doesn’t Work: It’s a little thing, but this is one of those horror films where the parents just take a leave of absence and seem to not really notice, or care, what’s going on. For Jay to be this terrified and traumatized, and her mom to not be around more, makes it seem like she has a bad mom. I think the mom character could have had a bit more to do, and the character of Yara (or the third best friend) could have been jettisoned altogether. I get that Jay has a sister, and Paul is the best friend/unrequited love, but I didn’t get why there was a need for ANOTHER friend. She doesn’t really do anything or further the story, and since this film isn’t interested in your typical teen horror body count, she wasn’t needed to be an expendable kill either. She’s in a lot of scenes, just to highlight how many friends Jay has, I guess.
Final Word: Like I said, I don’t watch a lot of horror films because I avoid films with cheap jump scares (which seem like most films nowadays). I like smart scary films that focus on ambiance and story structure over gore and jumps. This film defintely does that. There’s very little gore, and every jump scare is purposeful (and there aren’t even that many). It does a great job of being scary by setting up a well-told story, and just directing the shit out of it. David Robert Mitchell is a breath of fresh air to this genre, and I’m excited to see what he does next.
Final Grade: A