By Bill Arceneaux
Way back in my middle school years, there was one pet peeve that would cause me to experience levels of high anxiety: being followed. It didn’t matter if I was walking in a class line or just strolling down the hallway by myself, the feeling of being followed by someone – anyone – would nag at me constantly. It’s the unshakable sensation of not knowing what’s behind you, or knowing but unwilling to confront it. Really, it can be quite terrifying.
This is the basis for the simplistic new horror film It Follows. Sure, it should be obvious from the title that something will be following someone creepily – being an “it” and all. And many scenes of people walking or running should be expected. What wasn’t obvious or expected from the get-go was that this basic element for horror would expand throughout, and ask questions about and give thought to young sex and suburban stress. Suffice to say, It Follows has more going on than the business of scares.
The classic horror genre trope of sex is played with here in an integral way. Anytime a character makes love with someone “cursed,” they now become the target of an-invisible-to-everyone-else apparition, which will walk slowly towards you before, finally, committing brutal murder. We don’t know where the curse started, just that the only way for sure to rid yourself of it is to “pass it on.” In an awful way, I was reminded of stories from AIDS ridden regions of Africa, where some believe that rape will expel the disease. And there are some visuals of these evil spirits resembling family members, dressed in underwear and lurking/looming in “inappropriate” ways, suggesting more about the evil side of physical relations. But, this isn’t a movie so much about STD’s (though that could probably be pulled) or rape as it is about viewing sex and dating through youthful eyes.
“It wasn’t a big deal” says one of the females, regarding a past fling. Well, sure, but now your life is in danger, honey. At one point, she gives herself on a hospital bed to a neighbor of hers. Very casually, I say. The only meaning between them was to trade his life for hers. Another male friend, with an almost heartbreaking crush, is clearly jealous. However, when he talks to the neighbor later on, it’s all pretty friendly and “whatevs.” These young adults are so incredibly relaxed, loose and coy that it’s frightening.
It should be noted that this film not only has a keen eye for what is so ill about the coming generation, but also for filmmaking in general. There are many a creative shot and many more a creative edit and transition here that fills my heart with joy. Where people are in the frame, where they move to and from and what will be in the next frame are all considered. Many times in the background we’ll notice from far away someone walking to the camera, positioned almost dead center. It won’t necessarily be the focus of the scene, but it is something in the back of the minds of our leads, expressed literally.
It Follows is most definitely a surprise, and dare I say one of the best movies so far of 2015. There is much that it’s saying – including a puzzling dialogue exchange about not crossing into city limits – to give all much to chew on, but it does so without forgetting the tension it’s supposed to fill you with. A ride of pure panic, an expression of pure now, a movie of grand themes with minimal resources. Get behind this one, and do some following for once.
5 / 5 *s
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