Two elements make up a truly good horror story: the first, the absence of continuous bloody gore, which many times just renders the film ridiculous. And the second, enough dark shadows, and a heart-thumping music score to get our blood rushing and our minds racing, but never revealing too much of whatever creature, poltergeist, demon, or supernatural creation is in the midst until we are properly scared out of our wits.
It’s what makes indie horror films, like Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” absolutely daunting. We hear the creature, but we barely see it, confusing our senses, so used to letting our eyes do the work, that when, for example, our ears are invaded by a disembodied voice without the physical presence of whatever is terrorizing us on the screen, it becomes a different kind of horror film, one of the psychological form.
“It Follows”, marches along the line of the great psychological horror films of the 1970’s, treading on John Carpenter’s territory, but not completely submerging in it. The premise for “It Follows” is simple: as a result of a curse, a creature attaches itself to a person whenever he or she, have sex. The only possible, and needless to say, gruesome way to get rid of it, is to have sex with someone else, anybody for that matter, and pass it along to the next unsuspecting host. Although it might seem the ultimate recipe for a low-budget disaster, “It Follows” uses the elements of horror in just the right way. The creature can adopt any form, man or woman, adult or child, even the physical resemblance of a close relative or a lover, which makes spotting it so much more difficult. One could speculate that perhaps ‘It Follows” attempts to send a message about promiscuity among teens, but as the film progresses, we realize that this is inconsequential, because if sex is the only way the creature becomes attached, it’s also the only way to get rid of it. So perhaps the main point is this: what starts out as a superficial and shallow way of relating to other people, can become in the face of terror, a profound symbol of empathy and even love.
The film is manifestly anachronistic. There is no clear indication in what year the film takes place, although near the end, we find out it’s set in Detroit, which gives the perfect location for the many abandoned buildings and deserted streets. The televisions have old fashioned, twentieth century antennas, but one of the girls has a compact-shaped electronic device, which seems more like a small tablet than a smart phone. However, this does not affect the story because the creature doesn’t belong to any time or place either, and it’s never clear who summoned it, or where it came from. Does it matter? Probably not. The horror of being chased ad nauseam by a slow-walking, doltish creature, which may look like one’s own mother, is enough to concede chronological time and place unimportant.
The music score, and the wide angle lens used by director David Robert Mitchell and DP Mike Gioulakis, is more of a suspense builder than the sight of the creature itself, although there are many moments in the film where it gets close enough to the main character, Jay, for us to see the vacuous eyes and the murderous stare, inducing a very primal fear at the sense of its physical proximity.
“It Follows” is a barefaced attestation of what makes a low-budget horror film, an unforeseen audience success, attained by lacking overblown, over-utilized special effects, and ergo, depending more on cleverly assembled cinematography, that is intertwined with a story that traces the vivid elements of a well crafted urban legend. Like any respectable horror film, “It Follows” leaves an open ending, perhaps hinting at the possibility of a sequel. However, it’s probably for the best to leave it as a stand-alone film, making us wonder in the realm of our nightmares, if maybe someday, “it” will follow us home.