Retro synths abound on It Follows, a chillingly-effective horror from writer/director David Robert Mitchell. His take on the dangers of promiscuous sex among teenagers delivers a dark, _The Ring_-like impending doom throughout with its washed-out colours and Rich Vreeland’s 80s soundtrack amplfying the low-tech era which offers no place to hide.
Supernatural horror films can go for the ‘explain everything’ route far too often. The moment something odd happens, a group of teenagers hit the Internet and search for similar abnormal happenings, or they delve into the local archives to find substance to an urban myth. Such is the tendency to give these films meaning, there’s very little room for the imagination to run away with. Not so It Follows.
The sole sight of a mobile phone call is at the start when a teenage girl, fleeing from an unseen entity, reaches a beach at night time and calls her dad to say she loves him very much. The next morning, we see she’s been brutally murdered. From then on, Mitchell leaves the story to unfold organically with a hefty amount of suspense and leaving just enough unexplained to creep you out.
It Follows freaks you good by piling on the tension.
The girl pushed to the edge is Jay (Maika Monroe). A few dates in with a new guy (Jake Weary), she sleeps with him in his car despite him acting odd on a cinema trip and wanting to leave before the film has even started. Next, he’s tied her to a chair and shouting that he’s passed some curse on to her – that she’ll be followed by an entity taking any kind of human form, walking slowly but steadily towards wherever she is until it kills her. He tells Jay to pass the curse on to another by having sex with them – “it should be easy, you’re a girl” – but does she really believe it?
At first Jay does not, telling sisters Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Kelly (Lili Sepe) plus best guy friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) about her boyfriend’s warning and a naked woman approaching her before they took off in his car, but soon she’s seeing more people who go unnoticed by those around her. They aren’t the nicest-looking of people so Jay and company go hunting for her ex-boyfriend’s real identity while having to dodge the eerily unremitting people wanting to reach Jay however far she flees.
The lo-fi cinematography and simple plotting give It Follows a rough, unsettling edge which is helped along by Vreeland’s mix of vintage synths that veer from distortion and off-beat chimes to driving electro, dragging us through Jay’s emotions. Mitchell has you on the backfoot from the start, and you’re never given enough information to second guess what will happen next to the point you’re sitting comfortably. Don’t expect any easy way out at the end either – It Follows freaks you good by piling on the tension. Its stripped-back style is evidence that you don’t need a wild imagination or elaborate CGI to make a great horror, its all in the story-telling.