'It Follows' film review: Refreshing indie gem destined for cult horror glory
The supernatural flick "It Follows" (opening in theaters nationwide March 27) weaves a familiar, retro horror tone with a sharply aware meta-concept to craft an innovative gem destined for cult classic status.
In short: Teenage girl Jay (Maika Monroe) is ceaselessly pursued by a relentless and mysterious shape-shifting supernatural force - a tireless stalker that will kill her if it catches her. And she is just the latest in a long line of targets of "it" - a curse that was passed on to her when she slept with a previous target of "it." (Watch the trailer)
On paper, "It Follows" is an amalgam of many tired horror cliches: the promiscuous are marked for death, an unexplained supernatural force intent on killing, a cast of teens ready to be culled and the tired "final girl" trope. But this indie horror flick absolutely capitalizes on its refreshing premise - itself a meta-swipe against the countless dull slashers that stigmatized casual sex - and brilliantly executes a tense, innovative and piece of American cinema.
Even knowing this movie was filmed recently and released in 2015, it's difficult to pin down where or when "It Follows" takes place. Between the film's synth-heavy score, the eerie and near total absence of today's ubiquitous modern necessities - HDTVs or smartphones - and a costume design that is either uber modern hipster or tragically 80s, this is a film that exists outside of time. Cellphones are almost completely nonexistent in this world - yet one character spends most of the movie gazing into an impossibly futuristic smart device, rife with literary and poetic sentiments and passages. All these oddly contrasting elements only create a timeless movie where the premise and relentless threat can take center stage.
"It Follows" is a masterfully executed horror film that, much like its menacing antagonist, moves at a deliberate and chilling pace. The unnamed "it" never runs or speaks - but the shape-shifting force maintains a constant and unstoppable pursuit of its target: whoever is the last in the long chain of curse, promiscuous teens. This take on an evil that never suddenly runs or jumps into frame creates an unexpected paranoia: the audience, like the antagonist, is trained to watch everyone in frame.Any one in the background could reveals themselves as "it," a paranoia that allows the audience to share Jaye's dread, as she finds that she is forever on the run.
Aside from a mildly perplexing third act climax between the protagonists and "it" (a final stand that does make much sense within the logic of the movie), "It Follows" is a supremely original and refreshing addition to the horror genre.
Final verdict: "It Follows" earns major degree-of-difficulty points for turning so many horror tropes on their head to create a truly inspired work. This film would be a worthy successor to "The Babadook" to take up the mantle of "indie horror masterpiece of the year."
"It Follows" is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language and expands to theaters nationwide March 27.