“So pretty much that was suburban Under the Skin?”
I think I summed it up pretty nicely as the credits began to roll. But there is more to It Follows than just that quick statement. It is a film about violation, specifically the violation of our most personal yet vulnerable ability — our ability to have sex. This violation that follows Jay (Maika Monroe) as well as others throughout the course of the film.
It Follows follows Jay, who is followed by a supernatural source following a sexual confrontation with her boyfriend. Without diving too deep into the logistics of the creature, Jay, with the help of her sister and friends, must find a way to rid herself of the source with others saying that the only way in which to do that is to pass it on through another sexual situation.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell, working on his second feature, is able to create this suburban fear without having to ever give too much away in order to score a scare. Multiple times throughout the film, and expertly during the first sequence, Mitchell allows the camera to work as an eye in the crowd. Panning around in a long take, Mitchell allows the scenes to develop within the restricted space without relying on close shots and quick scares in order to build fear.
Mitchell creates this suburbia that feels like a stilted universe of its own. It feels like a realm of horror isolated from any scent of reality. The kids move at their own accord, without the strain of parents or any other authoritative force, and fight the monster in the closed in location whether it is the street they live in, their house, the beach house, or the end scene at the pool. Each one seems restricted, which helps to heighten the fear because it allows the horror to come from the fact that the characters and this monster are boxed into this location with nowhere to escape.
But at its core, It Follows is about the violation of one’s most personal moments, specifically having sexual intercourse with someone that you hardly know. From the moment that Jay and Hugh (Jake Weary) consummate their blossoming relationship in the back of his car, the underlining fear of being caught by the monster is afoot. Much like losing your virginity (which I don’t think was what happened with Jay) can be viewed as the end of your innocence, the sex that Jay and Hugh have puts an end to any innocence in the film and it becomes a constant fear for what is out there and looking for her.
That is what worked so well with It Follows is that once the safety of our main character was compromised, it never felt like it came back and Mitchell played with that as he gave the ending an ambiguous note and allowed the audience to leave the theater as uneasy as they felt throughout most of the narrative.
Not to be upstaged by the writing, but Mitchell also brings a feeling of uneasiness to the film with the score that sounds like something out of the 80s mixed with the soundtracks of Drive or any other Cliff Martinez soundtrack. The tones move up and down in an precarious flubbing that makes you scared for what is around the corner, but also gives you the odd sensation to bob your head.
It Follows is a smart movie and one that knows that fear comes from familiarity rather than making something jump out from under the bed every other second. Mitchell crafts the script and film to fit its own personal universe even though it takes from many other horror tropes. This doesn’t hurt it at all though as by the end, the convicted style and aura of the entire product is enjoyable and frightening enough to forgive most of what it gets wrong.
Again, I don’t think calling it the suburban Under the Skin is a slight, but rather a superlative.