ItFollowsHorror movies like to punish you for having sex. This is nothing new. It is a cliché that has been unpacked over time and one which still remains true, with a more genre savvy audience hungry for a new take on formula at any chance they can get. A memorable horror sticks in the mind due to the nature in which it navigates through these clichés and genre expectations. We remember the truly terrifying, but the ones which re-write the rulebook, and throw caution to the wind, are the ones which stand up as the smarter offerings from the genre. While It Follows is not as smart as the likes of Scream or as frightening as classics like Halloween, its awareness and knowing stylistic choices amount to a retrograde experience that is both frustratingly and welcomingly old school.

Jay (Maika Monroe) is going steady with her new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), and is ready to go all the way. However, once they have sex, Hugh reveals something truly horrifying. He has passed on to her a supernatural stalker, who will not stop following her until either she is dead or she sleeps with someone else and passes on the curse. Teaming up with her sister (Lili Sepe) and her friends, including Paul (Keir Gilchrist) who is enamoured with her, Jay attempts to find a way to stop this creature without resulting in the lives of other people. ItFollows2

The concept of It Follows is filled with creepy potential. The idea of something un-knowable stalking you in an unrelenting fashion has fuelled horror in the past, from Halloween to The Terminator, the stubborn antagonist can bury deep into the subconscious and refuse to leave. What makes the stalker of It Follows unique is its ability to take the form of anyone it wants, and it also moves slowly, only pursuing its target at walking speed. While it may seem easy to get away from, the creature’s perseverance is what serves its terror.

The only issue with this creature is that after the first few appearances, director/writer David Robert Mitchell doesn’t quite know what to do with the story after the first few encounters, leading the film to feel quite episodic come the final act. What powers these moments through is the atmosphere that Mitchell has generated. It is most certainly creepy, but there is also a cheeky sense of self-awareness that gives the film a sense of fun, namely in its knowing style that harks back to 80’s genre classics and namely the work of John Carpenter.

Much of this retro vibe is developed courtesy of the score by Disasterpeace. Seemingly using nothing but synthesisers, the score gives the film its strongest link to the work of Carpenter, allowing for Mitchell to create a tribute that is ItFollows-3quite clearly made with a love for the genre. The score coupled with Mitchell’s world building places the characters of It Follows in an American Suburbia that is certainly modern, yet contains fashions and stylings of the type of suburbia we’re used to seeing in the cinema of the 1980’s.

What also enforces this sensibility is the relationship between the central characters. With adults largely absent or kept out of frame, much of the work and the struggles are handled by the teenage characters working together to aid one of their own. This installs an Amblin-esque spirit amongst the group as they band together in a Goonies-esque fashion. Sure, there is no treasure hunt to speak of, but the dynamic between the characters recalls the kind of relationships found in Spielberg-produced entries of the 1980’s. Mitchell pays a lot of attention to his characters, clearly defining motivations and the relationships between the separate individuals.

As the lead of the proceedings, Maika Monroe further develops herself as a genre starlet following The Guest (which you should all go out and see if you have not done so already). She conveys frustration and terror very convincingly, but her character of Jay lacks the confidence and individuality of her character in The Guest. Elsewhere in the cast, no one particularly makes an impression, but it helps that they are all largely unknowns, allowing for the dynamic within the group to appear convincing, as they all aptly convey a comfortability with each other that friends of manyItFollows-1 years would exhibit.

It Follows marks yet another note-worthy early feature, as Mitchell conveys a great deal of genre know-how in scenes which are certainly creepy if not all out terrifying. It Follows is not as smart as some have claimed, nor is it all that ground breaking. It unpacks as many clichés as it indulges in, resulting in a horror film that has plenty of personality, if not that many surprises. That being said, you’ll most definitely be keeping a look out over your shoulder on the lonely walk home from the cinema. Oh, and don’t forget, don’t have sex.

4/5- It Follows indulges in the old school and delivers a creepy retrograde experience that compensates for the lack of genre invention with bags of atmosphere and style.