It Follows

For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But a seemingly innocent physical encounter turns sour and gives her the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her teenage friends must find a way to escape the horror that seems to be only a few steps behind.

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  • ★★★★½ review by metalmeatwad on Letterboxd

    I now present you with John Carpenter's The Spectacular Now!

  • ★★★★½ review by Evan on Letterboxd

    After watching this, I went out and bought myself a purity ring.

    I want to start off by saying how incredible the soundtrack is. It does such a phenomenal job at setting the mood and tone for this film. Its seriously one of the best soundtracks in a film I've ever heard. It had me mesmerized during the whole film.

    It Follows isn't your typical recycled, been there done that horror film. It's a film that is genuinely creepy as hell and filled with suspense. The film doesn't rely on jump scares to make the audience scared (although there is one or two), the audience is scared because the director created such an atmosphere. It Follows is such a beautiful film as well, there are so many amazing shots through out the run entire time. I can't say enough about the cinematography either, just wow. The acting all around is very solid. Everyone felt very genuine and real. Maika Monroe is going to be the next big thing; you can put that guarantee down in writing.

    It Follows is definitely one of the best 80s films I've seen that wasn't actually made in the 80s. I wasn't alive during the 80s, but this film made me feel like I was while watching it. I cannot give the director enough credit for that. The atmosphere is just too real. The film also takes place in Detroit and I live about an hour from Detroit; which I think added to the creepiness for me personally. The comparisons to John Carpenter are completely warranted. Between the music and atmosphere, this film reminded me a lot of the original Halloween. I seriously can't get over the soundtrack and how well shot this film is. It's really so impressive.

  • ★★★★½ review by Peaceful Stoner on Letterboxd

    It Follows. But what is It? Is it an embodiment of your guilt? Is it a reflection of your emptiness? Is it a representation of all that is lustful, desirous and odious within one's soul? A fleeting moment of passion, a momentary drive of heedlessness that can inflict, ail and haunt you for life. So, is it a realization of one's own regret caused by sexual waywardness? Does it follow only if the intercourse is driven by lust and is fit to be termed frivolous or does it follow even if the physical congression had a great sense of sincerity, yearning and love behind it? Why does it take forms of people who you know, people who love you? Is it because they would be most ashamed by what you have done, of what you have gotten yourself into? Is it a manifestation of one's own delinquent conscience that causes to rue for hiding such a vice, for having been so deviant of an established morality and of the preventive measures? Would it have followed had he or she been contraceptively wiser? Would it have followed if he or she hadn't irreverently conceived that particular physical encounter as just a one night stand, instead considered it as the most important night of a blossoming, long standing relationship? Would it have followed had they realized the risks attached to the free will that arrives unsaid upon attaining the young adult phase? Would it have followed had they been more responsible of their freedom?



    It Follows haunts you. Not many horror flicks deal with sensitive issues or taboos as their central theme but It Follows never shies away. The film on a whole is utterly chilling in a very strange and uncommon way, as its horror is dark and deeply psychological, although the mode of its transference is certainly physical. The means by which the horror implants itself into its subjects' perception is disturbingly different. The horror is not seeded by some fantastical paranormal phenomenon instead it spreads through the physical act of love, which, when approached right can be termed as the consummation of human bonding but when approached immorally can be seen as an offence; of law, of age, of willingness and of traditions. The subject who is haunted is not a constant here, the horror is contagious. He or she has the choice of passing the horror on, which brings in themes of righteousness, questionable decisions and the undesirable eventuality of having to live with the ramifications of the taken decision. Not only is the reception of horror different but also the depiction of the horror itself. It does not appear out of nowhere. It is there, it has always been there, only that now, it presents itself to you, it wants to relentlessly remind you of your deed, it wants to hurt you and thus it follows you. It walks, it can smell you, it can locate you but it has no paranormal powers. The fact that the horror walks towards its subject of attention, that it can be anyone – a stranger in the crowd or a person that you know, that there is no chance of escaping its ragged claws once it gets to you- keeps the audience constantly on the edge and on the look out just like those who have been afflicted. And since the followers walk, the much maligned jump scare phenomenon is taken out of the equation. The scares here are slowly simmered and brought to a boiling point – when the tension infused becomes nail bitingly unnerving.



    Perhaps the greatest achievement of It Follows would have to be its near perfect propensity to initiate and sustain the unsettling suspense using the core one line concept of “being followed”. How none of the members of the Height family are introduced but then, are shown in the form of followers is devilishly clever and stunningly effective. The horror attracts and inflicts high school/college going teenagers. This increases the potency of the fright manifold and makes the underlying theme all the more relevant. The sheer helplessness they face and their awkward situation of not being able to come out clean to their parents, having to deal with it themselves, brings the horror several notches closer to reality and simultaneously ramps up the stress and the fear factors involved.



    David Robert Mitchell's vision and direction is so assured. The film has no opening credits. The name of the film does not come up until the end. Mitchell minces no words or scenes and immediately plunges the viewer into the horror. The tableau of the gruesome death of an unknown, affected teenage girl, definitely gears the viewer up for the terrifying ride ahead, the shocking effect of which endures for the entirety of the film and is a major contributor for maintaining the tension—as we do not want our protagonists to confront a similar fate. Mitchell does not go about explaining as to what caused this ghastly fatality, which in turn made me bet that the same ambiguity would be maintained throughout the film too and I wasn't surprised to see that it was. I am certainly of the opinion that when a horror film is ambiguous and makes the viewer think and analyze, it definitely leaps to a whole new standard than when everything is explicit and expository. It Follows thrives big time on ambiguity and that choke hold of a beginning sets the tone and warns the viewer to keep bedsheets in readiness for the sake of scurrying beneath when bigger shocks are unveiled later on.



    It takes guts for a director who is just one film old, to take upon himself such an unspeakable, perverse theme that is capable of reaching into the tenebrous vaults of self-conscience in an attempt to deliver a disquieting horror film. It is a giant risk that could so easily have been denunciated by critics and audiences alike without second thoughts, if it were done wrong. But It Follows almost never slips and is one of the standout horror features in recent times. Mitchell's vision in bringing to life evocative sequences of horror also deserves great commendation. The film has some of the most frightening horror set pieces in recent memory. Especially Jamie's first encounter within the limelight bathed, glistening automobile made my blood run cold. That scene exuded an ominous, brooding atmosphere, which, with the outstanding aid of great lighting, the howling of the night wind, the unsettling isolation and silence, combined with the anxiety of what horrific possibility could ensue, gave me a wave of unrest during my first viewing and even the second for that matter. What followed this scene made me shiver. Not only this one, It Follows has several other such marquee moments that are sure to become a cult phenomenon in the coming years.



    For any horror film to succeed in its ultimate aim of petrifying the audience, it must first realize the value and then make exceptional use of silence. It Follows does this extraordinarily well. The smooth molding of terrifying scenes, with scenes of absolute serenity, ably emphasized and made all the more mysterious by the trance like, retro-synth score from DisasterPeace (what a wonderful name – very fitting to the theme of It Follows too—after a luscious intercourse, peace generally follows, but here, disaster strikes and then horror follows), induced a stream of anxiety within me and proved to be a rare fare of aural and visual indulgence.



    It Follows is another horror film that I have seen this year, the first being The Babadook, that not only proves to be a spine-tingler, but also has a great deal of moral connotations running throughout its narrative. The dialogues in It Follows are sparse. Solely dependent on the depiction of its horror and how it is induced, Mitchell's film speaks volumes about themes like the value of abstention- never vouching for the self and societal pride one is credited with because of abstaining but the physical and actual dire consequences that could be avoided by restraining oneself from unsafe sexual intercourse and other such harmful indulgences that have become an integral part of every other teenager's life. Jay Height, played with a great deal of sincerity and vulnerability by the stunning Maika Monroe, is one such carefree, shy and introverted teen. Her life seems to be pretty directionless and unenthusiastic. She dreams of going out on her first date, a romantic night out without the constant nagging of her parents- a dream that most teenagers behold as something of an important milestone that signals the arrival of deliverance, of having grown up. The eagerness of wanting to break free of conventions, unmindful of the consequences can mean landing yourself in a terrible rut, a quick sand from which there is no escaping. It Follows not only emphasizes the importance of being wary about sexually transmitted diseases, but also underscores that once the pleasure of coitus has been experienced, the crave for more such encounters would almost certainly consume one's conscience. After all, abstention is easy only before the first sinful indulgence. It Follows indirectly delivers a strong message against these cultural maledictions using its terrifying horror tropes. A careless, inconsequential first choice for a physical encounter could haunt one's mind with uncleansable guilt for a lifetime, just like the indelible X mark on Jamie's middle finger. Also, those who view the film's subtext as taking a stance only against the sexually erratic are sadly missing its core intention. The film's concept can be applied to, as a stand against any form of addiction, but it chooses this particular avenue to instill a greater fear within the viewing mind.



    It is not a coincidence that all of the followers that haunt Jay are clad in white, especially the male followers who are dressed up in white latex attire. Even the costume adheres to the film's ultimate aim of recalling a widely disregarded notion. Jay and Kelly Height's Mother is mentioned several times in passing but is almost never brought into action, impressing upon the fact that even a murder can be professed to one's parents but not something that one has 'caught' after an incautious sexual encounter.



    In the beginning of the film, Hugh (Jake Weary), whilst playing the people watching game with Jay, picks a sweet kid as the person he would choose to be, if given a wish for a switch. His choice explains a lot about his situation. He is already afflicted with the following phenom. He, like any other teen would have dreamt of enjoying life as an independent adult sans incessant interventions. But once he realizes what his careless actions have caused him, he finds nothing better than becoming an innocent child; the only way to undo his wrongs, a life centered around simple, harmless dreams and wishes. Jay and Yara on their way to the swimming pool, talk about how they were prohibited from crossing their block during their childhood. Jay reminisces of how during her younger years she used to dream what it would be like to drive around with a boyfriend. Paul reminds Jay of their first and only kiss. It Follows is more than just an STD metaphor; it is a story of how teenagers on the cusp of adulthood view life; of how the much awaited young adulthood can turn out to be a terrifying ordeal if not handled with care. It Follows transcends underlining just sexually transmitted diseases and impresses on the need for a general responsibility that one must inherit during times of newly found liberty, during the time that signifies one's coming of age. It Follows has masterfully camouflaged and delivered a case in point of the unbearable guilt of having caused a terrible downturn of one's own life, irrespective of how it is caused, staunchly warning us never to get to that stage where there is no coming back.



    To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

    To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

    Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”



    The inclusion of T.S Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' is another significant reason as to why I profusely appreciate Mitchell's attention to detail. When I read the entire poem, which I then came to know was Eliot's first major publication, I learned it was about a middle-aged, middle-class, late Victorian man who suffers from the boring banality of his repressed, routine, unimaginative bourgeois existence. Prufrock is epitomized as a hopelessly frustrated man, who alienates himself from his own dreary existence. Yet, he desperately yearns for an imaginative salvation. Prufrock's analysis of his own life, I found, was perfectly analogical to Jay's existence. She is a teen who seems lonely even though her family is close knit. She seems dazed and confused about her life; she has dreams, but is often repressed by the guidelines drawn by her parents. Her life thus far has been agonizingly uninspiring and unexciting; her most imaginative solution to break free is, as she says, to go on a romantic date with a cute guy, go for a long drive without a destination or worry in mind. Prufrock is observed by literary critics as an effigy, representing the cultural decadence and moral degeneration. He is seen as a product of a world suffering from a break with its past cultural heritage with an unhealthy emphasis on individualism. Even more similarities could be seen here with Jay's perception of her own life and as to what she finds exciting – to break free is to do something that disregards conventions, but nevertheless, is ceaselessly intoxicating and exhilarating. The perils of such an ideology are presented in a truly heart pounding manner in It Follows.



    The stage wise devolution of the plastic walled swimming pool accurately signifies Jay's course of life and her current plight. Initially the care and sin free Jay is shown swimming in the pool; innocent, relaxed and definitely lost in her day dreams. Later on, she is shown once more to be swimming, at a stage when she thinks she has freed herself from the curse. This time she is more cautious of her surroundings and of her life. Finally, the pool is shown drained out with one plastic wall pulled down. This might well be allegorical to Jay's unalterable problem. The water in the pool signifies the simple but valuable calm that kept her afloat all her life, giving her comfort, which, with age, was perceived as a monotony and ironically became an uneventful, insipid routine. But it is not longer there. Her peace and tranquility have been vacuumed from her mind and in turn from her life in such a heady rush. The citation from Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, about how one would have the longing to sit down and wait in the face of an inevitable calamity also comes to prominence when the viewer realizes the fact that Jay's visions will never subside and no matter how fast or how far she runs, her impending doom will always appear close by and will never relieve from following her.



    The film later devolved into a hybrid, ethically sourced version of hollow man. The intensity of the suspense and the efficacy of the horror could have been maintained had the followers been truly psychological but nevertheless possessing the power to physically hurt their subjects instead of having a definite physical form and being invisible. The swimming pool sequence lacked maturity and the necessary thought required to appeal to audiences on repeat viewings, although the follower who appears during the swimming pool sequence to hurt Jay is sure to cause tremors irrespective of how many times we choose to rewatch the film. The protagonists being teenagers could be stated as a valid excuse for this slight slip in strategy but the film definitely loses steam in the later part of the second act. What it loses in intensity it picks up in ambiguity. The following quote from Jay's friend Yara indirectly sums up what It Follows tries to achieve and in turn prevent from happening.



    "The most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all—but the certain knowledge that in an hour—then in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now—this very instant—your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man—and that this is certain, certain!"



    True pain emerges from not the body but from one's mind. A lost soul, a tainted conscience, a mind ridden with guilt is so much harder to replenish than a wounded body. One can so easily slip from the right path; no matter how much one regrets, getting back to being one's old self takes incredible grit, effort, acceptance of the sins committed and the magnanimity to forgive themselves. It Follows warns against losing one's soul through pointless acts of primal instincts. When the soul is lost, all interest in life is washed away; as then, it is certain that one becomes obsessed with death; as one becomes the ideal prey for death; as then, one can rest in peace only after being consumed by death.



    Like The Babadook, It Follows also culminates with what could be argued as an unresolved, open ending. Jay's night out with Hugh was to break her cherry, for the cause of putting the untameable excitement and the uninitiated need for pleasure to a rest. With Gregg, it was a case of wanting to pass on the horror than about finding true love; it was an act of desperation more than true acceptance. With Paul, she is different. She seems uncomfortable because she is aware of what this could do to him. Paul and Jay take their relationship to its crescendo and are shown holding hands on a quiet stroll. Their lingering tinge of exhaustion and melancholy is very noticeable. Behind them, at a considerable distance, is a man, not in tighty-whities, but certainly giving off the impression of a follower. Is he a follower who keeps watch on whether or not, Jay remains committed to the person who has been desperate for her love all along or would the haunting manifestation of her guilt ridden loins remain ineradicable forever?




    PS, It Follows is cinematic proof that self pleasure is the better way out to sate sexual tendencies, when ethical, emotional, horrific and guilty consequences are bore in mind, when compared to unsafe, negligent premarital intercourse.

  • ★★★★★ review by Lucy on Letterboxd

    it: follows me

    me: SLAMS that block button

  • ★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    It was an interesting experience watching It Follows right on the heels of 1979’s The Visitor. While both borrow from films that came before them, The Visitor seemed nothing more than a mash up; a collection of best parts of the past stitched together with some profound weirdness and a Space Jesus thrown in. It follows never felt like it was appropriating the past, nor paying homage to it; it didn’t even feel like it was really influenced by the past, but the resemblances are there, almost like an echo.

    What I loved in particular, and what I thought brought all of these echoes from the past together in such a compelling way, was the films refusal to commit to a time period. Most of the vehicles, 70’s classics; The black and white portable TV perched atop a late 60’s tube-chassis RCA colour .. a sight not uncommon back then during the not too infrequent cases when the set went out, and you were awaiting a call from the friendly house-visiting TV repair man, and the unspecified future of the ‘clam shell’ e-reader, which points in both temporal directions.

    Horror feeds on raw emotion, yet jump scares and hair-raising violin-chirping, nail-biting, run-for-your-life scenes were almost completely absent; rather the horror was the uneasiness of the relentlessness and seeming inevitability of all it all. It wraps with this the fears of the next stages in life that adolescence brings. One of the most telling and true scenes for me was when Jay escapes on a bike to a park playground. Sitting on that swing was safe. You know she sat there a thousand times before growing up. Riding your bike and swinging on the swing returned her to the safe bubble of childhood. A place of happiness where nothing bad could happen.

    Growing up, one of my Son’s best friends, one of our country neighbours, was a girl a year older than him. She moved away when she was 12. In the previous six years she was always over at our place, and one tradition was the annual Easter egg hunt. I was surprised to get a call from her the following Easter to see if she could come over for the hunt. Of course this could be attributed to a sense of tradition, or more likely, free chocolate; but no, I think it was something else. The look in her eyes, and the way she and my Son gleefully hunted the bunnies like the kids they were from years gone past, that it was something more. A return to a simpler time for a girl living in a new house, in a new town, and just entering puberty.

    It was feelings like that wanting to cocoon; to retreat to a place of comfort and safety, that really made It Follows a success in my eyes, as there’s nothing scarier than life itself, and life itself is relentless.

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