Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

In a lily-white suburban neighborhood, a distressed teenger runs out her front door from something foreboding and malevolent, though we can’t tell what. In a panicked, unsettled state, she makes her way to the beach and gives her parents one final appreciative phone call goodbye. Come morning, she’s been left mangled and mutilated by whatever invisible force was pursuing her. This is the opening scene to David Robert Mitchell’s (Director of 2010’s “The Myth of the American Sleepover”) latest offering to the horror genre, “It Follows”, a paranoia-inducing allegory about a disease that haunts like a ghost carrying an inescapable sense of doom.

Played with just the right amount of detachment is teenager Jay (Maika Monroe), our leading lady and protagonist who feels as if she’s being swallowed into adulthood at the tail end of her youth. Following a steamy one-night-fling with her hunky date Hugh (Jake Weary), Jay is chloroformed and learns he’s passed a curse onto her that can only be expelled by bestowing it to a new host. Until then, she’ll have to flee from the shadowy supernatural phantoms who relentlessly follow her at a snail-like pace. These guys make Romero’s zombies look like marathon runners. Jay’s lover explains “wherever you are, it’s somewhere walking, straight for you..” Jay’s faced with the moral choice of keeping the burden, which consequently will cause her to continue being hunted by the fiendish, paranormal entities, or infecting multiple parties with it, leaving her with more time to bide.

Rooted in actual adolescent worries, “It Follows” has an ominous atmosphere of dread that’s almost palpable. It’s a menacing tale of ennui and the uncertain abyss of aging, that lingers with an intimidating warning we’ve been given ever since middle school sex ed class (thankfully it doesn’t become preachy with its morals). [pullquote align=”center”]Rooted in actual adolescent worries, ‘It Follows’ has an ominous atmosphere of dread that’s almost palpable.[/pullquote]

Is it scary? To an extent. Its concept is sometimes scarier than its execution. While never reaching the terrifying heights of modern horror creep-fest such as “Session 9” (2001), “Kairo” (2001), “Inland Empire” (2006), “[REC]”  (2007) or “Black Swan”  (2010), “It Follows” sustains a generally spooky air of unease throughout. If anything, like last year’s “The Babadook” (Which I didn’t love or find scary, but appreciated for its rich subtext and Essie Davis’ performance) Mitchell’s film must be commended on the fact that the horror is actually about something thematically. The best horror films are the ones that stand as metaphors or allegories for our contemporary, real life fears such as guilt, grief, anxiety, self-doubt and existential despair. Not just poltergeist, demonic possessions, or eerie looking dolls. 2013’s “The Conjuring” is somewhat guilty of this. James Wan’s throwback to 70’s ghost films such as “The Changeling” was a great family horror film that I admittedly had a fun time with. It’s an experience akin to attending a theme park haunted attraction. Audiences jump, scream, and get scared, but ultimately come out the other end having a laugh more than being genuinely horrified. So while I certainly loved “The Conjuring,” its success was a double-edged sword, giving studios an excuse to spew out more typical “play-it-safe” franchise fodder. Since then, we’ve seen an overflow of generic, poorly done haunted house and exorcism flicks. Last year’s “Ouija” for example, regrettably became the second highest grossing “horror” movie of the year just under the cheap spin-off “Annabelle.”

Mitchell knows his inspirations, and like Adam Wingard before him who directed last year’s fantastically fun “The Guest” (2014) and “You’re Next” (2013), “It Follows” sometimes plays homage to the 80s B-movies that have influenced it. It owes an obvious debt to films like “Halloween” (1978), “The Thing” (1982) and a whole mishmash of John Carpenter flicks. In some ways, it could be viewed as “What if John Carpenter directed American Pie?” The awesomely brooding electronic synth score by artist Disasterpiece stands out, perhaps a bit too much on occasion, but nevertheless is a fantastic musical score that echos Carpenter’s work as a composer. The foreboding sound design is also top notch. The retro 80s influence, which has become a trend for horror films as of late, does become a tad overbearing in its panache, but thankfully doesn’t derail the movie entirely. Its only real, glaring flaw is a sequence towards the end that is extremely reminiscent of Swedish horror film “Let The Right One In” and the American remake “Let Me In” that edges towards borderline goofiness.

While it might not scare the pants off seasoned horror vets who have ventured towards the farthest end of terror, seeking out frights with films such as “Wolf Creek” (2005)  Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” (2009) “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (2011), or the new french extremity of “Inside”(2007) and “Martyrs” (2008) , “It Follows” is still probably one of the more creepily asphyxiating films in recent years. I think I’d have prefered its premise to stay more psychological, rather than supernatural, but it still manages to do so much right. It has artistic vision and intelligent subtext.For die-hard horror fans, sick of reboots it’s a no brainer. See it. For everyone else, proceed with caution. This is one disease that might plague permanently.

Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.

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