We as humans are a perplexing creature; we build roller-coasters that ascend us to alarming heights and crazy speeds, just so our hearts can beat so furiously that they threaten to punch through our chests. We drink alcohol until we come under bouts of dizziness and sickness and we watch horror films that terrify, shock and repulse us. After all of it we claim we will never do it again, but as soon as the adrenaline and chemicals have left our system, we crave the ordeal once more for another hit. I know this feeling, I enjoy this feeling. I’m a horror addict and have been one longer that I can remember. From the paranoia inducing the Thing, to the relentless bloodfest of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street that turned sleep into a prison of hell. The long history of horror has rarely failed to deliver a scare.
Well that was until Hollywood’s recent generation of horror less, contrived and cheap jump scare of film duds like Paranormal Activity and Insidious. However fortunately with the turn of 2015, with Babadock and It Follows, the genre seems to have returned back to form with the release of the two best horror films since the Blair Witch Project almost two decades ago.
There are no jump scares, excessively gory scenes or black cats anywhere near David Robert Mitchell’s nightmarish masterpiece. On the contrary, It Follows is slow, methodical and takes its time to burry deep into the hidden recesses of your mind and incrementally blossom with paranoia, tension and terror. During every nanosecond of It Follows my conscious, logical and smart side of my brain begged me to turn away and flee from the cinema and never turn back. However like a dear in the head lights, Mitchells spellbinding filmmaking froze me to the spot then mercilessly dragged me kicking and screaming into the storyline.
Bewildered, scantily clad and clearly chilled to the bare bone, a young woman runs from her home in panic with clearly unpractical heels for making an escape. We don’t know who she is, she could be our protagonist or the proverbial lamb for the slaughter indicative to all slasher films – the promiscuous girl who is killed first. However the only thing made abundantly clear in the opening moments, something agonisingly just inches out of view is following her and it terrifies her greatly, could it be a killer, bogeyman, the devil himself or something much worse.
But just then when you think she is succeeding in getting away, she makes a U-turn and heads back into her house only to get her bag and car keys and drive to a secluded beach. Defeated and exhausted she calls her father to tell her she loves him, then cancels the phone to await her mysterious fate. The screen plunges into darkness, then snaps back to light only for us to be meet with the gruesome and troubling sight of the girl dead and her leg contorted and snapped impossibly backwards on itself. The opening sequences of It Follows arouses so many thoughts, concerns and questions; what is she running from? Why can’t we see it? And why is she so willing to accept defeat at the end like every last ounce of will has been ripped away from her?
Well we soon learn this is because you can’t out run it, you can’t hide from it, you are never safe from it, because it will always follow you, waiting for a lapse in concentration or a foot misplaced so it can inflict on you a fate worse than death. This haunting, horrific truth is soon made abundantly and agonisingly clear to Jay, who after a sexual encounter is put to sleep by chloroform, only to wake up tied to an office chair in the middle of an old, dilapidated building by her once lover. In between nervous glances just out of shot, the teen reveals to Jay that a curse has been placed upon her; a curse that will render her nightmares a horrifying, unescapable reality.
From now on Jay can never be in a confined space, she must constantly be afraid of dark corners and she must grow eyes in the back of the head if she hopes to merely delay the inevitable just a little bit more. For something will always be following her, it may be in the guise of a stranger or loved one and it may walk very slowly, but once it touches her death by any other means would be a blessing in comparison to the horror it has installed for her. The only way to temporary relieve herself of the dismay is to pass the curse on to someone else through sex, but once that person is killed, it comes back up the chain for her again.
Due to its nature and genius, It Follows has garnered plenty of discussion over its hidden meaning, with plenty critics and academics citing it as a parable or metaphor for HIV, in the sense that it can be easily passed on through sex, but you can never escape it because it is always just behind you waiting to take your life. But to conjure up convoluted ideas about the film is missing the entire essence of it. It Follows is raw, animalistic and appeals to the very latent sense of fear over impending destruction in the human condition. The paralysing dread that no matter how much you beg, plead or cry, how much you run, hide or fight, there is no salvation from death, it is merciless, unstoppable and frightening, it will always get you in the end.