The problem with most horror films, is that they are not actually that scary. Oh sure, they’ll make you jump and even maybe have the easily scared scream, but the second the jump is gone, the fear is gone as well. It’s what a few people have described as cattle prod cinema and quite frankly most of us are bored with it.
This style of horror is what led to The Babadook being met with such glee. Here was a horror which at times makes you jump, but also has an overwhelming sense of dread. It builds up a world that you don’t want to be a part of and makes you care about the characters, so that you also want them out of it too. Thankfully, this year has already found a film in the same vein, the excellent It Follows.
It Follows premise is pretty simple. The big bad that haunts the film walks towards its victims, never speeding up, but also never stopping. You can drive far far away, but while you eat or sleep, it will be constantly coming nearer, until eventually you turn around and it’s there. Except, you might not spot that it’s there. Because said demon thing doesn’t have a standard form and can in fact take the form of anyone, be they stranger or loved one. It makes crowded rooms a nightmare, as anyone who happens to walk in your direction may cause you to scream and bolt for the door. The one tell-tale sign is that said demon can only be seen by you or others who have been cursed by it. Said curse is passed in one of the most primal ways you can think of. If you’re cursed by the demon and you have sex with someone, it will move onto them. Sadly, it’s not actually over, as if it catches that person, it will then work its way back down the line, killing off those who have been cursed before.
It’s a formula that could have gone one of two ways. On one hand it could have become an advocate for celibacy. A rant about how all these young people having casual sex have it coming to them. Thankfully, that is never implied. No one is shamed for going to bed with someone else in this film and in fact, as the film goes on, sex becomes a way to protect someone. You can take that burden away from them by making the beast with two backs and choose to fight the demon yourself. It’s a wonderfully healthy attitude to sex, even in among the scary demons determined to murder those who have partaken with the wrong person.
In It Follows, said partaker is Jay, played by Maika Monroe, who people may recognise from being chased by another killing machine in The Guest. She brings a lot to this film, as she manages to get across the fact that this girl is being driven insane by the fear of this thing. Nothing confirms its relentless nature better, than the way she goes from fun-loving young lass, to a pale drawn in shell of her former self, who can barely leave her room without being overwhelmed by fear.
Much like The Babadook, It Follows generally forgoes jump scares or cheap thrills. Instead, it works brilliantly to create an atmosphere, which keeps you constantly on edge. The dream like nature of its cinematography means that you find yourself peering into the blurred background, trying to figure out if that is something slowly walking towards the camera or if it is just a figment of your imagination. Simple extras in the background, suddenly bring with them a sense of dread, as you don’t know whether it is the slow, unrelenting march of death or simply a passing student on their way to class.
It’s an atmosphere that is in no small part aided by its synth heavy soundtrack put together by Disasterpiece. The music is constantly unsettling, doing as good a job as keeping you on edge as the film does and it’s off tempo beats and winding John Carpenter sounds, are the perfect backdrop to this fucked up world.
It Follows is this years first great horror film and if recent years are anything to go by, there is a pretty decent chance it will be one of the best. Director David Robert Mitchell has created an unsettling world, which you can’t quite get out of your head and is sure to lead to more than one person anxiously checking over their shoulders on a dark evening as they make their way home.