One of the many challenges in modern filmmaking is to achieve originality, perhaps even more so in the horror genre which has its own array of cliché and trademarks. ‘It Follows’, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, is an indie chiller that plays up to expectations and subverts them, carrying on the recent up shift in modern suspense films. The plot centres around a sexually transmitted curse which is passed on to lead character Jay (Maika Monroe) in the backseat of her new boyfriend’s car. Faced with the terror of being stalked by creepy entities who take form in all shapes and sizes, she is told to quickly sleep with someone else to ‘pass it on’. Will this rid her of the horrific plague or will she be followed forever, always looking over her shoulder? This intriguing premise plays out with style, creative flair and a thrilling synth-heavy soundtrack, bringing eighties-like scares into the present day.
Quite often with stories of this ilk, Jay and her close-knit group of friends would be picked off one by one by whatever ghastly ghoul is on their tracks but the development of the narrative here isn’t driven by a death count. Instead, the characters strategise over how to overcome Jay’s threatening problem through reasonably intelligent discussion, the script flowing well and creating a believable back-story between the clan through in-jokes and anecdotes. There are still jump scenes that we’ve come to accept, Mitchell exercising a true knack for building suspense, and of course there are moments of sheer stupidity from potential victims as at one point Jay thinks it’d be a great idea to cycle alone to the local swing park in the middle of the night. Despite losing its way a little in the final third, struggling to come up with a satisfying conclusion and treading slightly into repetitive street, the high points will continue to haunt.
Maika Monroe came to the attention of cinema-goers with her appearance last year in genre-crossing horror-thriller The Guest, a film not dissimilar to It Follows in its visual style and score choices. Her acting carries an fascinating vulnerability which obviously works well in these sort of parts yet she has the strength and screen presence of a powerful female lead. Solid support comes from Keir Gilchrist and Daniel Zovatto in their roles as boys who want to assist Jay with her issue, openly willing to selflessly take one for the team and have her pass ‘it’ onto them. This makes for an interesting little lust triangle sideline with a twist but thankfully doesn’t deflect too much from the core concept.
‘It Follows’ might not be unique in its classic ‘pass it on’ storytelling device but the way in which the film is profoundly executed makes it one of the best modern horrors I’ve seen in years. It successfully avoids the formulaic pitfalls and has the added advantage of a brilliant central character in Jay, played superbly by Monroe. She’s young, on trend and instantly relatable to my generation at least which makes her creepy visions all the more terrifying. Maika Monroe is fast becoming my new movie crush and I could watch her running away from evil spirits all day long. If she is to become the face of modern horror, I am more than happy to go along for the ride.