A main subtext generally read into horror films of the ‘70s and ‘80s is that if you’re a teenager, sex will kill you. That is, having sex makes you less than virtuous and therefore instant prey for homicidal maniacs in masks. Modern horror flicks seemed to do away with the notion, but new indie offering It Follows revives it, and tweaks it, in wonderfully, incredibly unnerving fashion.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell actually makes the idea central to the film’s plot. In it, a college student (Maika Monroe) has sex with a guy (Jake Weary) who informs her afterwards that he has just passed a curse on to her, in which she will be stalked by a malevolent entity that can appear as anyone and that only she can see—and which will kill her if it catches her.
Additionally—and cleverly—Mitchell makes it so the cursed person can rid themselves of the curse if they have sex with someone else, but if the entity kills that person, it will come back after the previous person. Such rules may lead you to expect lots of coupling, but the Basic Instinct of horror flicks this is not. We see maybe three instances, none of which qualify as erotic.
Instead of making the sex sexy, Mitchell makes it important, in that Monroe hesitates passing the curse on that way. She doesn’t want to just doom some random guy to a violent death. She has a conscience, to the painful chagrin of a somewhat gawky childhood pal (Keir Gilchrist) who harbors romantic feelings for her, and who feels hurt when she rejects his offer to, uh, help.
The premise is tailor-made for a small budget, too, because Mitchell doesn’t have to digitally create a creature. He simply employs myriad regular people to establish the idea of one. This reaps chilling dividends, as the film feels most frightening whenever Monroe sees a stranger ambling relentlessly towards her (and in particular when a giant of a dude suddenly appears in a doorway).
Some may fault the film for its casual pace and unexciting performances, but hey, it’s an indie invention. Mitchell still manages to create a quite unsettling mood via creative camerawork (check out the one-long-take opening sequence), surprisingly little gore—a girl’s bloody, broken body aside—and a terrific, ‘80s-like score by chiptune artist Disasterpiece. John Carpenter must be proud. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 7/14/15