31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #12 – It Follows (2014)

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Tagline: It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Writer(s): David Robert Mitchell

Studio: RADiUS-TWC/Dimension Films

Budget: $2m

Box Office: $20.6m

Release Date: 27th March, 2015

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Maika Monroe – Jay Height

Keir Gilchrist – Paul

Olivia Luccardi – Yara

Lili Sepe – Kelly Height

Jake Weary – Jeff Redmond/Hugh

Bailey Spry – Annie

Trailer

Plot According to Google: After carefree teenager Jay sleeps with her new boyfriend Hugh for the first time, she learns that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Death, Jay learns, will creep inexorably toward her as either a friend of a stranger. Jay’s friends don’t believe her seemingly paranoid ravings until they too begin to see the phantom assassins and band together to help her flee or defend herself.

Inertia’s Insight: A startling horror debut from writer/director Robert David Mitchell, It Follows is a masterclass in Hitchcockian suspense. Scaring the viewer with only the merest suggestion of danger, every frame of this timeless film is exquisite – the slow, fluid movement of the camera makes you anticipate and study with intent everything you see on screen. Yes – a film about someone walking is hands-down the scariest film of 2014.

Teenager Jay goes on a date with her new boyfriend Hugh. After a short stay at the cinema and a strange game of ‘The Trade Game’ in which they choose someone in the cinema they would rather trade places with (Hugh appears to choose someone who isn’t there…) the couple make their way to a secluded spot where, after brief conversation on a river bank, they have sex in Hugh’s car. After the fact, Jay recalls her girlhood dream of being taken on a date before being chloroformed by Hugh in the back of his car.

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Waking chained to a wheelchair, Jay is told by Hugh that he has passed something on to her: a disease unlike any other. An entity, taking any form it wishes – someone she knows, someone she’s never seen before – will follow her, seeking her, walking towards her in constant pursuit. All she can do is pass it on. Have sex with someone else, and keep it going down the line until it is far away from her as possible.

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In the distance Jay can see something – someone – coming towards her. A naked woman, walking purposefully in her unknown pursuit. Hugh offers her the chance for escape, leading her away from IT and giving her the advantage of a head start.

At first Jay’s emotional state prevents her from understanding the severity of the issue. Feeling isolated and alone, she first considers that perhaps Hugh was being suggestive, and in fact she has contracted what is warned of in every Sex Ed class at school. But soon she discovers that this is not the case. Mitchell’s perfect execution of the first time Jay notices the creature walking towards it is something to behold. Rotating 360 degrees as Jay sits in an English lecture, there is the suggestion in the background of the school field that someone is out of place. Just as you try to pinpoint the odd one out, the camera has fluidly rotated back into the classroom, leaving you anticipating the next time you will see out the window, just knowing that it’s going to be closer.

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The audience is Jay the first time we see the old woman – we are questioning whether she’s real, whether she’s a threat, whether she’s a figment of Jay’s imagination. Disasterpiece’s stunning 80’s-sounding music is what cements the realisation for both Jay and the audience: this thing is real, it can only be seen by us and it is unstoppable.
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At first finding it difficult to relay this to her friends, it is discovered to be true after an emotional breakdown at her house and a physical altercation at a beach house that can leave none of her friends even questioning the reality of this unreal situation. The scene inside her house, where it represents itself in two different forms: tragic and terrifying, is a model way of increasing the threat of this unknown entity. Mitchell’s first film, The Myth of the American Sleepover, was critically lauded as being important and accurate in its representation of teenagers, and It Follows is no exception to this trend. The teenagers talk and act in their characteristic way, barely making eye contact, conversation kept to the bare minimum. Paul’s yearning for Jay is a comforting note, supporting her through an unusual and emotional time.

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It is first class horror – there’s no gore, no blood, no effective make-up to emphasise a creature. We are looking for someone, anyone. It could be anyone, a face in the crowd, only differential from its one-directional walk. The suggestion of what you might be seeing as opposed to what you see; the anticipation of who or what it could be next is edge-of-your-seat horror with only minimal technical direction. Mitchell’s strength lies in the suggestion of the mise-en-scène – from the outset we are watching every inch of the frame, waiting for an indication that someone there shouldn’t be there. There are moments where Mitchell ramps up the paranoia, as ordinary people walk towards the characters and are immediately questioned as being real. There are several aspects to this film that transcend it from A-B horror film: Jay’s Mother is never seen, only from the back or in a blurry foreground; the setting is timeless as the decor, the technology, the clothing and the vehicles are in contrast with each other; and the overall lack of parental or adult supervision, coupled with the fact that the majority of IT’s representations are in the form of adults, immerses you in to a world that just doesn’t quite feel as though it is of this plane.

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The ending is a personal altercation with IT, and a suggestion that whatever has happened, it’s not over. It cements the central teenage focal point of the isolation they feel at that age: the adults are a distant realisation in this film with teenagers left to fend for themselves at this time of transition and change, particularly emphasised with Jay’s condition.

Mitchell’s direction has a beautiful 80’s aesthetic, the colour and sheen of the cinematography with the smoothness of his camera work gives a nostalgic yet timeless feel. His subversion of genre tropes – the Final Girl actually has to use sex to survive – is a genius touch and the end, that leaves audiences guessing until the final reel, makes you want more from a film that actually should end where it does.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * * *

Trivia

  • The film’s concept derives from a recurring nightmare the director used to have, where he would be stalked by a predator that continually walked slowly towards him.
  • The time of the film’s setting is intentionally ambiguous as if to reflect a dream – some cars, clothing, television sets and films look dated but there are aspects of technology and modern vehicles.

Quotes

HUGH: It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.

JAY: I used to dream about being old enough to go on dates. I had this image of myself, holding hands with a really cute guy, driving along some pretty road. It was never about going anywhere really; just having some sort of freedom, I guess.

All images courtesy of Blu Shots: https://blushots.weebly.com


Tomorrow: Night #13 – Friday the 13th (1980)

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