What are the suburbs, but an in between? What is adolescence, but an in between? While It Follows is ostensibly about sex, conflating partners past with an everlasting cursea sexually transmitted urban legendits also, and perhaps more so, about a space between. Its the fear of being unable to go back, but seeing absolutely nothing ahead.
Filmmaker David Robert Mitchell has a way with youth. The Myth of the American Sleepover director is in touch with an authenticity not often captured on film, let alone in genre. His story is fantastical, but his Detroit-area setting is real; his haunted ensemble living where the promise of the suburbs meets the reality of the middle class. Thats where Jay (The Guests Maika Monroe) lives. A beautiful teenager, like many horror film leads, Jays existence is more tactile. The pool is above ground, the back screen door is a bit uneven. The neighbors watch her family get by, either through windows across the street, or swarming in front during emergencies.
Jay can touch a sort of cinematic ideal however. Preparing for a date, her hazy, dreamlike room swoons (as does a spectacular score from Disasterpeace). Her bra is a perfect pink. Her lipstick pops. Her new boyfriend Hugh can take her to a movie palace, with an usher that plays the organ before showtime. Hugh is hunky. His car is mint. Hes got something terrible to pass on.
Though it opens with a striking, expertly crafted and instantly unnerving sequence, It Follows true element of foreboding lies in a single shot just before the shit really hits. Parked in a secluded spot, like any grand pair of retro cinematic lovers, Hughs car sits, again in a middle. Behind it, the horrors of urban decay. Ahead, the mystery of the forest. This, It Follows says, is what the suburbs are. They are a middle point between more aggressive urban anxiety and otherworldly rural folklore. The burbs is where they converge.
How they converge is, brilliantly, in this aforementioned post-coital curse, one which carries the everlasting anxieties over where your lovers been before, but pushes farther into all of lifes stresses. Where am I? Where will I go? Who will I become? Theres a deliberate dread in Its rules. Once youve got it, there it is, walking slowly, assuredly your way. This is where Mitchell has fun composing wide, confident frames your eyes engaged, always under attack, searching for It. At more reprieving moments, he acknowledges the absurdity of the accursed characters and elicits huge laughs. When more explicitly a threat, the director and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis still employ symmetrical, centered stunning visuals. This time, theyre less paranoid and more confrontational, immediately assaulting. Sometimes, It is in your face. Others, its throwing electrical appliances at it.
Its said the supernatural stalker could be anyone or anything. That doesnt mean its random. Jay sees a breadth of people coming for her, and though we spend little time with afflicted men in It Follows, her would-be attackers are most certainly gender-specific. Her wide array appear as a fully nude woman; an abuse victim; a sickly old ladywho and what and how she could end up. Meanwhile, she also sees distorted visions of male family members and the young boys next door whore just starting to experience physical attraction. Jay is 19as Britney Spears wisely noted, Not a girl, not yet a womanand Mitchell is frighteningly realizing lifestyle and sexual pressures crowding young women from all sides.
Again, its the lifestyle fears that feel most pertinent. Twice, inside of cars, It Follows characters express a sentiment of going no place at all. Just before Jay is made aware of her unfortunate circumstance she sums up the new, sometimes uninspiring freedoms of adulthood. She reflects on the wants and desires of childhood, the yearning to be older, to get out. Now that she is, there seems to be nothing to do and the yearning is reversed. When under attack, she and friends make for places recognizable as childhood safe zonesa playground, a familys beach house, sleepovers, friendships. Later, the terrifically funny Yara (Olivia Luccardi) asks Paul (Kier Gilchrist), Know where to go? Its too matter-of-fact as a question however. It really sounds like, nowhere to go.
And so It Follows is endlessly scary, physicalizing its ideas as an unsettling, relentless, nagging presence, but one ambiguous enough to plug your own shoulder shudders into. In its tense finale, It Follows ensemble face the monster at a pool. Blood is shed and the blotchy red substance swirls and spreads in the water, taking the form of a floating Rorschach test. The characters stare down. If they can see their own fears in this thing, so can the audience. Does It Follows believe suburban existence to be scarier than sexual anxieties? Possibly. Do I? Definitely.