Released to wide critical acclaim, It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell, has been hailed by many as one of the best horror films of the past 30 years. Critics have praised its depiction of women, the cinematography, and the story. While each of these points are worth talking about, I often felt that It Follows took itself too seriously and touched upon themes that were not fully fleshed out.
Taking place in my hometown of Detroit, MI (313 REPRESENT!), It Follows tells the story of Jay (played by newcomer Maika Monroe.) Jay is 19 years old, a college student, and very sexy. Someone who definitely fits the mold of a horror movie. After having a one night stand with a boy on a date, she is informed by her love interest that a strange apparition will follow her and eventually will kill her unless she has sex with another person. The film then plays out like the traditional horror film where Jay is trying to figure out how to get rid of this apparition with the help of some friends.
Every female led horror movies often has a theme of how in order to survive the killer, you have to be a virgin. Think of Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Halloween for a prominent example. It Follows gets rid of this cliche rather quickly by having Jay have sex within the first twenty minutes. I found this to be actually very inventive: Instead of knowing that she will survive because Jay remains a virgin throughout the film, the viewer now wonders if the apparition will get her because she has broken the #1 rule of horror movies in losing her virginity. I also found it interesting of how the apparition that is following Jay is a metaphor for sex. The apparition only appears when a person has sex with someone who is being followed, and after having sex that new person is followed. This is very similar to how HIV is spread: It will allows “follow” someone if it is left unchecked. In addition to the sex analogy, I also thought that the apparition was a metaphor for the city of Detroit.
As someone who grew up in Detroit (as did director Mitchell), kids were often told to not venture outside of our home suburbs to go into the big bad city for fear of something bad happening to us. This is even referenced in a scene where one of Jay’s friends mentions how she couldn’t go south of 8 Mile Rd, traditionally the dividing line between the city and the suburbs. The fact that Jay’s sexual encounter took place in run-down part of the city (that I believe was the Packard Plant, but I’m not sure) shows that Mitchell is trying to show that the apparition is the spirit of the city that has been neglected by the suburbs. By following and murdering suburban kids who only use the city for carnal pleasures, the city is getting revenge on the suburbs who have abandoned it.
While these ideas are certainly interested and the city of Detroit has never looked better on film, I found the characterizations and acting to kind of be wooden. While the character of Jay was certainly fleshed out, I could not have cared less about the other supporting characters such as Jay’s sister played Lili Sepe; and Jay’s best friend who has a crush on her played by Keir Gilchrist. There just seemed to be no dynamic to their other relationship other than that they were friends. More of a back story would have certainly helped. Also, I thought that up until the ending (which was a pleasant surprise) the movie followed a very normal trajectory: Kid has sex. Kid starts seeing apparition. Kid and Kids’ friends investigate. Kid has final showdown with ghost, etc. I found this to be very boring and did not see how this makes the movie revolutionary according to some critics. Perhaps its because I’m too cynical or have seen too many movies like this, but I would have liked the plot to follow a different path from other horror movies.
While It Follows, certainly has interesting ideas and wonderful cinematography, this is ultimately a movie that could have been so much better. Still, this is worth seeking out if you are interested in seeing Detroit on the big screen or are just a horror fan in general.
Final Review: 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.
Fun Fact: As a person who has spent numerous times at the Redford Theatre, I loved how it was portrayed in this movie!