It Follows is a very effective horror flick because it follows (ha!) an old tradition that has been set up by classic flicks such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. All of them tell a story of sexual guilt. If you are a virgin, you survive; if you have sex, you die. Like Halloween, it is set mainly in suburbia. It Follows has found a new way to scare the hell out of sexually active teenagers.
Whereas the older two classics were whodunits, It Follows shows us teenagers who are being followed by an evil force inhabiting seemingly random persons. That evil force is passed on by intercourse. Jay, the female protagonist, makes the mistake of sleeping with Hugh, who is being followed, and now Jay is being followed by random persons, too. See how the title is one huge spoiler?
Those random persons can be complete strangers, but sometimes they are someone close to you. Just watch out for persons walking straight towards you, oblivious to their surroundings. Only Jay can see them. There are only two ways of escape: you either move faster than them, which means being on the road most of the time for the rest of your life, or you can sleep with someone and pass on the curse. Not really much of a choice. Imagine you’re a teenager: what would you do?
I rented this flick because I was looking for a good horror movie, pissed off that The Babadook only played in synchronized German around here, and because I missed Goodbye Mommy at the theatres. It Follows is not at all a bad substitute. Jay’s sister and friends are smart about her dilemma, and instead of going off alone into the woods with a broken flashlight, they stay together and try to figure out the phenomenon and devise a solution. They quote Dostoevsky and T. S. Eliot. Jay consults Hugh for finding a way out instead of yelling at him. There are no boo moments where someone or something jumps into the frame for a cheap scare. The followers mostly appear from quite a long way away, and that is scarier than it actually sounds here.
The faces are new and fresh, and they all can act. It Follows takes teenagers seriously. David Robert Mitchell, the director, also made The Myth of the American Sleepover, not a horror movie, but a drama, that also knows a lot about teenagers. He tells his story in a straightforward manner. It Follows refuses to be a CGI fest with shadows and spectres; instead, it opens with a scene that hooks you by its weirdness, but makes perfect sense later. There is only some gore. The horror is in the fact that only Jay can see the followers, whereas her friends cannot. They stick with her all the same. That makes the horror survivable. How many times have you yelled at the screen for the group of friends to stick together and don’t split up and don’t ever, ever go into the basement? This time around, the characters in the movie are smarter than the average audience.