Film review: It Follows

The premise of the film is simple and harks back to the coming-of-age pubescent fears that underscored much classic 1980s horror.

In It Follows, a curse gets passed on with truly terrifying results. AP Photo / Radius
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It Follows

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary

Five stars

It Follows is without doubt the scariest movie you will see this year. And probably next year, too.

It achieves this not through elaborate CGI, gore or an elaborately crafted monster, but though sheer suspense, a solid script and keeping you rooted to your seat willing for the likeable protagonists to free themselves of the curse that has befallen them. When you’re not jumping out of your seat, that is.

The premise of the film is simple and harks back to the coming-of-age pubescent fears that underscored much classic 1980s horror. In fact, the movie owes a huge debt to that genre.

Gang of likeable teenagers – a pretty one, a geeky one, a hunky one – stalked by unspeakable evil? Check. Deceptively calm suburban setting? Check. Brilliantly atmospheric, eerie synth soundtrack that could have come straight from the mind of John Carpenter? Check.

There is a curse. It is passed on through physical intimacy, and if it kills you, it returns to the person you caught it from and hunts them down, then the person they caught it from, and so on right back down the line. Our heroine Jay (Maika Monroe) is infected by her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), who we later learn has created a false identity to make it easier to find a victim to, at least temporarily, relieve him of his affliction.

We never really learn exactly what the “It” that proves so deadly actually is. It can adopt any human form. It often chooses wounded or elderly bodies, though the ability to take the form of your friends and family is obviously an advantage when it comes to hunting down teenagers. And it is visible only to those infected by the curse.

It doesn’t fly or shoot lasers or even wield a chainsaw. It just walks towards you, never runs. Wherever you go, it will find you, and walk towards you slowly, ominously, fatally. This might not sound very scary at all – but we discover in the film’s opening scene that you really don’t want it to get within touching distance.

When it comes to scaring audiences, it’s often true that less is more, and this incredibly simple premise and innocuous, everyday villain deliver genuine terror on an almost constant basis. The film has an obvious moral undertone. It’s easy to get rid of the curse, at least temporarily, by passing it on to the next victim, but even then you’ll never know when It has found them, killed them and will come back for you.

You’ll have to spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder, never sleep, all for one moment of pleasure. Think of the consequences of your actions, the subtext seems to scream.

It's true that horror isn't to everyone's taste. If that's the case with you, then one as bone-chillingly terrifying as this is probably best avoided at all costs. If you're a fan of the genre, however, It Follows needs to be on your must-see list. To my mind, it's the best horror film since 1999's The Blair Witch Project.

Monroe, meanwhile, looks like a star we can expect to see a lot more of. Her strong performances in this movie and last year's The Guest have been rewarded with a role as the female lead in the upcoming Independence Day 2.

It’ll be interesting to see how she makes the transition from low-budget indie horror to guns-blazing Hollywood blockbuster – but she’s one reason I might now watch a film I would, most likely, previously have ignored.

It Follows is out in cinemas today