It Follows: Innocence lost to the timeless drone of Synth
Timelessness. That’s the word that kept darting through my head upon my third viewing of It Follows. It’s like a John Hughes movie gone horribly wrong, but if said John Hughes movie was scored by John Carpenter and co-directed by David Fincher. Every shot meticulously framed and lit, the score seeping through the frame forming a miasma of dread. The film relishes in stylistic extremes but it never descends into abuse because it all feels so…natural.
Let’s dial it back a bit. It Follows is a 2014 horror film directed by David Robert Mitchell starring the lovely Maika Monroe about a girl who had one horrible date followed by one horrible aftermath. Jay (played by Monroe) goes on a date with cool guy Hugh. One thing led to the other and it went from bumping the haystack in the car to Hugh chloroforming her and tying her to a wheelchair in an abandoned parking lot. It’s there when Hugh reveals that he passed something on to Jay, and now something…someone is going to start following her.
That’s the horror set up for the film, and before anyone (which probably would be everyone) gets to it yes the STD allegory is rather obvious. But the film does not push into the moral realm of celibacy but instead simply chooses to observe rather than condemn. Jay is never shamed for sleeping with someone, the film even goes as far as to indicate that this is very much not her first incursion with the birds and bees. Jay is not at fault, her curse or jinx just happens upon her. It’s like Juno, but instead of a baby we have naked dishevelled women and demonic children slowly but ever steadily following our protagonist. It’s the timeless story of a teen faced with forces of evil and must get rid or defeat it through the help of her gang of old friends. The characters in the film yearn for a simpler time, where innocence was intact and life was free of the darker edges the creep in as the years go by. “It” seems to serve as the reminder of impending doom, that growing up has consequences.
Every facet of the film, from production design to the writing helps to reinforce the theme of timelessness. Jay watches black and white Twilight esque shows on a vintage 80's TV while her friend reads from a shell shaped E-reader. Large organs in movie theatres co-exist with cell phones and modern cars. These juxtapositions are never deliberately pointed out within the films universe, but simply exists without further explanation. This story could happen any time, the things teens say back in 1980 just happen to be devoid of enough 21st century trash vocabulary (nobody says “Netflix and chill”) to sell the illusion of being neither a period piece or a modern throwback.
The soundtrack helps too. Scored by prominent video game composer Disasterpeace the music is undeniably 80's Carpenter synth but given the clarity, polish and production values of a current production. Large, heavy percussive beats punch a cocaine dose of terror during scenes where “It” pursues Jay and a high strung keyboard melodies drips of menace during the climatic showdown between Jay’s Scooby Doo gang and the titular monster. The film never takes itself too seriously that it sucks the fun out of campy 80's slasher horror but instead allows the cliches and themetic tropes to co-exist with the very modern cinematography and art direction.
It Follows is tone perfect. It functions both as a modern cult staple and as a timeless horror classic in the likes of Halloween and a Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s message, if there is one, seems to be of inevitability. Growing up sucks, and it will happen no matter what. Have fun sleeping tonight.