From Cannes to Sundance: The Best American Horror Film in decades ‘IT FOLLOWS’

After about a year of waiting, I finally saw the horror film of my dreams. By dreams, I mean nightmares. The premise is actually from David Robert Mitchell’s (The Myth of the American Sleepover) nightmares as a kid. Mitchell has written and directed one of the most original, haunting, and heart-pounding horror films in years. It Follows was the only American film to premiere in the critics week at the 2014 Festival de Cannes and dominated all the 2014 festivals from Toronto all the way up to 2015’s Sundance. It has gotten universal acclaim (83 on Metacritic) and rightfully so. It’s going to be hard to forget this film for a very, very long time. The terrifying power of this film doesn’t come from cheap, bloody kills; it uses the common 70’s and 80’s horror trope of “sex equals death,” not with the intention of satiating the audiences’ baser instincts. Sex is used as a metaphor for the encroachment of adulthood and with it the self-awareness of mortality, making the terror of It Follows not just physical but existential. It Follows actually digs deep to try to explain why sex could be so horrifying. The imagery in the film is quite striking, cinematographer Mike Gioulakis illustrates a world that seems so real with a sense of melancholy dread stamped in every frame of this movie. He fills the screen with so much information that the audience member is forced to be an active one. Gioulakis also shoots in wide shots which allows us to be paranoid spectators looking for this so-called “it” in every corner of the shot. I don’t want to give away too much since I require anyone who is reading this post to SEE this film.

Mitchell does an extraordinary job of executing the scare-scenes, especially with the aid of the spine-tingling score from Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland). This talented composer bleeds diegetic (within the “world” of the movie) and non-diegetic (coming from a source outside the story space) sounds with one another, enhancing the atmosphere into a truly chilling one. Also, the influence of John Carpenter and Brian de Palma are apparent to horror buffs like me but Mitchell creates a whole new, modern voice of his own. That slow-burning linger that we all feel when we’re having a dream, like not being able to move, is highlighted so expertly in scenes paying tribute to the masters of horror. For once though, the monster is gender-blind, “it” doesn’t care if you’re a boy or a girl. If you have sex with someone who’s being followed, then you’re basically screwed. Even the scenes where the “it” kills are quite unsettling and disturbingly original. Something I like to do in horror films when I’m doing a close-analysis reading is to take away the monster. In doing so in It Follows the result is a bunch of teenage friends who actually care about each other, trying to enjoy their summer vacation but face issues that most kids that age experience. Jay (an outstanding Maika Monroe) is going on dates, having sex and must face the harsh realities of growing up. The anxieties and paranoia that young people, like myself, experience come from the different relationships we have with our friends and loved ones. David Robert Mitchell is sensitive to the complicated nuances of teenage friendship, rooting the horror in relationships which make the movie believable and affecting. Whatever this “it” comes from has something to do with these same issues. Young people have to think about the consequences of having sex but Mitchell neither defines sex as being abnormal or beneficial. There are so many layers to this film, that I already need to see it again.  It Follows is an art-film so it doesn’t necessarily explain anything, leaving so much up for interpretation. I have my own interpretation of this film but I don’t want to write it here because different people have different perspectives of their world. When looking at a painting, for instance, one person views it differently than another person does. The same goes for art-films like It Follows and last year’s The Babadook. I could talk about this movie for days, its lingering effect is nearly haunting me. This is truly one of the scariest films I’ve seen in years but it’s also one of the best artistic achievements I’ve seen in a while. Its dreamy, nightmarish tone only makes the moments of fear that much more blood-curdling. The horror in It Follows derives from a place of truth… as do all dreams and nightmares. The simple metaphor for this film could be described as the “STD allegory,” but Mitchell supplies so many layers beneath that theme, that this monster becomes less physical than existential.

Radius is the American distributor behind this film and did a remarkable job of marketing this movie. It got released in four theaters on Friday the 13th and did a fantastic job in the theaters. So having seen the great results, they pushed the expected VOD date further, to have this movie be wide-released. Thank god because It Follows deserves to be seen on the big screen.

It Follows is quite simply the best horror movie of this generation and should definitely be seen by anyone who wants to see an intelligent, beautiful, hair-raising, and shocking horror film. If John Carpenter and Sofia Coppola had a baby, it would be It Follows.


3 thoughts on “From Cannes to Sundance: The Best American Horror Film in decades ‘IT FOLLOWS’

  1. What am I missing when it comes to this movie? Maybe my hopes were set too high. I did think that it was visually appealing and I like the soundtrack. Great review. 🙂

    1. haha thanks! For me, like in Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK, if you take away the monster there’s something more existential there. There can be so many different interpretations. It’s a coming of age story, drenched in dread haha

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