No Sleep October: It Follows (2014)

“It Follows” is one of my favorite movies I’ve watched all year. It creeped the shit out of me.

If you don’t know: Jay (Maika Monroe), a normal teenage girl, loses her virginity to cute guy Hugh (Jake Weary). Immediately afterward, he reveals to her that in doing the deed, he passed onto her a curse, an “entity” that only those afflicted can see. The Entity always walks, never runs; it is always approaching. You might be able to shake it by driving away or locking your door. Just don’t forget that one day it will get you, and there is nothing you can do about it.

 

Writer-director David Robert Mitchell makes sure you’re always looking in the background of the frame, wondering if the person in the distance is real or fake. It is monumentally unsettling. There are several scenes where all you can do to stay staring at the screen is shake your head and mutter “No, no, no …” It’s a unique trick. Completely engaging.

The Entity is a sublime cinematic creation, both visually and thematically. Before watching it, I knew of it only as “that movie about the evil STD,” which only scratches the surface. Maybe it’s because I spend all day listening to car accident victims as part of my job, but my fear of disaster as “just around the corner” is something I constantly suppress. “It Follows” isn’t so much about sex as it is the understanding that death is inevitable. The first time I ever felt aware of death was when I was a teenager. This is a pretty basic horror movie theme (slashers in particular), but the way “It Follows” conveys the monster as always approaching the camera, blending into the crowd, visible only to the person about to die, strips it of its traditional trappings. It breaks the emotional component down to the sparest visual language.

The Entity also speaks to other classic horror themes, particularly the relationship between sex, dread and death. The loss of virginity is a cultural signifier of adulthood; adulthood is an embrace of mortality. Jay makes a much more measured leap into losing her virginity than some of the male characters, who refuse to believe the Entity is real. There’s so much to the movie. I gush and wax poetic about the strengths of “It Follows,” and that’s because it is so absurdly clever, all the way to the final punchline.

The soundtrack, too, borrows heavily from the sensibilities of classic 1980s horror, most significantly John Carpenter. The score is great! Disasterpiece, the composer, knocked it out of the park. We hear the familiar melodies and know what we’re watching horror. In a way, it is a comfort.

I can’t fairly say “It Follows” is a perfect movie. In the same way the Entity distills the basics of the classic horror monster — sex, death, foreboding — the actual story itself follows a very traditional structure that robs the monster of its power in the third act. I won’t post spoilers here.

Most importantly, “It Follows” creates a pleasurable sense of tension and horror. Sure, I couldn’t help but look out into the dark field outside of my apartment and think “What if I saw someone slowly walking toward me, someone nobody else could see?” That’s how my mind works. But part of me wishes someone would play that trick. How sweet would that be?


Administrator of Midwest Film Journal. Previously a staff writer for TheFilmYap.com, Evan has been writing film criticism in the Indianapolis area for over half a decade. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He also reviews Oreos.


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