It Follows is a fresh spin on the horror/slasher genre that deals in building affective tension while not relying on jump scares and music crescendos (most of the time).
It Follows deals with a group of friends’ attempting to save one of their own from an evil force, passed along from one person to another through sexual intercourse. Only the “infected” can see the pursuing evil, which can only walk after you, look like anything it wants and should never, ever, get its hands on its victim. Once the evil kills its target it moves back after the previous person who passed along the “infection” to the most recent carrier.
The film isn’t interested in gore, which is great because gore isn’t scary, it’s just gross. The one instance of gore is in the very beginning of the film and is utilized to more so show the evil’s strength than anything. Director/writer David Robert Mitchell does a great job of balancing out how/when to show the evil as well as playing out the rules of the monster without over exposition. The one scene of exposition that lays out the rules of the film is done perfectly, the scene is fully functional in setting up the rest of the movie all while being incredibly tense as well (I almost wish Mitchell would have just stayed with the fixed camera the whole time, but the scene works incredibly well regardless.)
Mitchell’s shot selection is also pretty great, with a lot of clever camera moves and single takes to ramp up tension as much as possible. Mitchell’s economy of storytelling through visuals is also so effective you might miss a couple minor plot beats here and there. Nothing confusing the film, just little nuggets here and there that expand upon what’s happening without an exposition dump. I also appreciated how subtly Mitchell sets up how and when the evil changes form.
Maika Monroe stars as our followed, and between It Follows and The Guest she is someone film fans should be paying attention too. I love that she is the face of Carpenter throwbacks of the moment, but she is such a strong female lead I hope she gets plucked for a chance to be a star. She is a bit stilted here, but I think this has something to do more with Mitchell’s direction than anything else; the whole cast feels this way. Keir Gilchrist is the only weak spot of the cast, as he feels like too much of a wet blanket to buy his relationship with Monroe’s Jay and her friends one bit. Gilchrist’s weakling portrayal actively hurts the ending of the film, unless someone is simply using him, but the ending doesn’t read as that.
It Follows is an easy recommendation, but don’t go in expecting the “scariest film of all time” hype. The film is smart, builds plenty of effective tension and makes almost the most out of its premise. A couple lingering “dumb” decisions and tad better performances could have really put It Follows over the top, but as it stands It Follows is still one of the better films of the year.