ALL good horror tales can tap into some primal fear within us.
One of the earliest and most disturbing examples I can remember – enhanced, of course, by the fact that I was far too young to be watching it – comes from the movie, Child’s Play, which sees a possessed doll, Chucky, come alive to go on a murderous rampage.
At one point in the film, the boy who owned the doll is trapped in a police cell, and from the window, he can see a long stairwell leading up the side of the building where, clambering step by step, Chucky is making a slow but inevitable ascent towards the boy.
This is the kind of expertly drawn out tension that lies at the heart of It Follows, writer and director David Robert Mitchell’s second film and his first foray into horror
The film focuses on a small group of teenagers living in Detroit. As the eldest of the group, Jay (Maika Monroe) is a little ahead of the rest of the teens, she leaves them playing cards on the porch while she goes out on dates with her new boyfriend, Hugh.
Not much seems awry until Jay eventually spends the night with Hugh, after which he tells her he has passed something on to her.
Something will follow her, he explains – he doesn’t know what it is, but it may take on different forms, mimicking people that are close to her – but it will follow ceaselessly, walking steadfastly toward her no matter where she goes.
If Jay lets it get close enough to touch her, the results will be disastrous. She can pass the curse on by sleeping with someone else, but if they are killed, it passes back on down the line, pursuing whoever had it last.
Not only has Mitchell conceived of the most terrifying STI imaginable, but he has also created a seemingly unique horror device that works incredibly effectively.
The effectiveness is of course connected to Mitchell’s story and style. Drawing on the seminal works of John Carpenter and Wes Craven, Mitchell’s film effectively captures that middle-American suburbia: all wood-panelled houses and neatly cut grass.
The fact that the monster moves at a walking pace here is a genius stroke – it allows plenty of time for the characters to get away and develop. A car ride for an hour will buy several hours of respite.
There’s a subtle tenderness between the group of friends, with some burgeoning romantic feelings thrown in for good measure, and granting the time to see all this emerge on screen allows the audience care about and bond with the characters – which makes it all the more terrifying at the times when “it” eventually catches up.
Part full-blown horror, part horrific reflection on how our childhood must end when we adopt the mantle of adulthood, It Follows is a stylish, very well executed – and at times, terrifying – affair that showcases very strong direction, coupled with an equally strong cast.
It joins last year’s The Babadook as another refreshing example that mainstream horror can offer much more than just loud shocks (though it has a couple of those) – but it can give you a story and characters that will stay with you when the nightmares eventually subside.