Film Reviews

It Follows (2014) – 4K UHD Review

A large part of horror is the unknown; being at the mercy of forces that you can’t understand. As such, it’s always a little sad to see a horror film do well, and go on to spawn a series of sequels, side-stories and prequels that go on to explain almost everything, and take away a large portion of that magic. It’s very surprising then to find a horror film that was a critical and financial success, that’s beloved by audiences, that chose not to do that, and remained a singular piece that refuses to allow its audience those insights and answers. It Follows breaks a lot of horror moulds, and it’s now available in a gorgeous new 4K Ultra-HD release.

It Follows tells the story of Jay (Maika Monroe), a college girl from Michigan who lives with her mother and sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe), and spends her time hanging out with her friends, Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi). Her quiet life goes through some changes when she starts dating Hugh (Jake Weary), a new guy in town. After a couple of dates Jay and Hugh sleep together, but shortly after having sex, Hugh drugs her. Jay wakes up tied to a chair in an abandoned building, with Hugh looking panicked whilst looking around the building.

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Hugh tells Jay that he’s passed something onto her, that an invisible entity will now be coming for her. Only her, and the people infected before her, can see it, and it can take on any human form. The creature will be following her, always walking towards her, and that she needs to be on the lookout for anyone who’s following her. He explains that if it catches up with her it will kill her, and then come after him again. The only thing she can do is to sleep with someone else to pass it on. Shortly after explaining this, the entity appears, and Jay realises that Hugh was telling the truth.

Thus begins Jay’s fight for survival, as the entity begins its relentless pursuit of her. With Jay having seemed to have been sexually assaulted by Hugh after he leaves her at home in her underwear, and her in a state of fear and anxiety, her friends and family assume that she’s simply going through trauma. Now she has to convince those around her that she’s not crazy, and that her life is in danger.

It Follows is the creation of writer/director David Robert Mitchell, and it’s clear very early on that he has a very specific look and feel for the movie, one that will draw you in and interest you as much as the actual story and characters. The film exists in a time out of time, almost in its own world. There are scenes where you see modern cars and phones, and others where cars are from the 70s and 80s. Fashions are mixed, with people in the same room wearing clothing styles from varying decades. Most modern appliances and electronics are absent, with older TVs appearing throughout, showing movies from the 1950s. One of the characters has a e-reader/phone that’s inside a literal clamshell, a compact mirror having been repurposed for this use. The result is a film that is hard to pin down, one that at times feels like a period piece, and others a modern day tale.

© 2014 – RADiUS/TWC

Part of this was done due to the director wanting the film to feel timeless, but it was also done to give the narrative an almost dream-like quality, where the small details don’t quite make sense. This absolutely helps the movie, as the central story has a nightmarish quality to it. I’m sure most of us have had a nightmare where something is chasing us, at least once. The slow moving camera shots, the use of wide angle lenses, and the choice to often keep characters isolated in the middle of the frame, small and vulnerable in a wider world, add to this, and give the film a feel unique all to itself.

In some ways, the central antagonist of the film (the titular It) takes some ideas from other places. The themes of sex and horror have been used numerous times over the years, and being cursed because you have sex isn’t a new one. A monster that only you can see, that makes your claims that your life is in danger seem false, fits very much into the cliches of the Gothic, especially when a woman is placed at the centre of it. And the relentless pursuer that never stops, that seemingly can’t be killed, and that cannot be reasoned with, immediately conjures connections to The Terminator. Whilst the film seems to borrow from these other areas, the end result feels very original, and the concept of the creature and the way it works is a novel one.

The creature is also a big part of the enjoyment of the movie. Once you’ve been informed of the rules, the movie almost becomes like a game, albeit a tense one. Once you know that this thing is constantly coming you start to examine every scene, looking for someone in the background who could be the entity. You start to question every person walking towards Jay, trying to figure out if they’re real or not, and you begin to experience a little of the fear and horror that the characters are going through.

© 2014 – RADiUS/TWC

The cast sell this fear well, with Maika Monroe doing a wonderful job at showing this slow descent into desperation and fear. Her character goes through a lot in the film, feeling like her boyfriend assaulted her, not knowing if she’s going crazy or not, trying to show her friends that she’s not imagining things, and then dealing with the idea that she’s in danger for the rest of her life unless she places another person in danger. Monroe manages to convey this journey in a subtle way, never descending into screaming and shouting, with a more internalised journey going on. A lot of her scenes almost have a sense of defeat to them, of a young woman pushed so far to the edge that she has nowhere left to go, and is ready to give up. It’s a decent contrast to Weary’s performance, who injects Hugh with a manic desperation and frayed nerves that puts his own trauma on the surface.

The music is another aspect of the film that stands out, and the film’s composer, Disasterpeace, is as integral to the success of the film as the cast and director. Having previously worked on video game scores, this is the composer’s first film work, and it’s hard to believe as the score for It Follows is one of the best horror scores in decades. Like with the other aspects of the film, the score feels weirdly out of time, though its heavy use of synths gives the film a very 80’s feel, and reminds one of John Carpenter in the best ways. The music elevates the film thanks to the ominous moods that it brings to scenes that would otherwise feel normal and benign, and it’s often the shift in sound that will set you on edge. Disasterpeace enhances every moment of the film with his music, and the recurring motifs and themes end up getting stuck in your head.

There have been many essays and dissections of It Follows over the years, and a quick search online will bring up dozens of deep dives into the film’s themes, its meanings and interpretations. Modern horror tends to play things quite straight, with things being either easily understandable, or with explanations given in the narrative. It Follows bucked that trend, and because of that it grabbed viewers’ attention. Not knowing what the creature is, where it came from, or why it does what it does makes the movie get under your skin a little bit more. You end up thinking about it after it’s done, you create theories, you discuss it with others, and you end up going back and revisiting it hoping that you can glean some further insight. This is why the film made more than 20 times its budget, and often features on ‘best horror’ lists.

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This new release not only comes with a new 4K master of the film that looks gorgeous, but also a host of interesting extra features that those who want to know more about the movie will enjoy. There are new interviews with several members of the cast and crew who recount their time working on the movie, a video essay about the film, and two audio commentaries that go in depth into the making of the movie. The Limited Edition version also comes with a 150-page hardback book filled with essays about the film. The review copy we received did not include the book, but it’s something that I’d love to read, and is sure to further satisfy those wanting to deep dive on the film.

It Follows has been described as an instant modern classic, and having revisited it again for the first time since its release it’s hard to disagree. The film feels different, and has a style all to itself, and it doesn’t talk down to the audience or feel the need to hold your hand. The fact that it didn’t spawn a slew of sequels, and that the creator knew it could stand on its own, only makes it stand out further, and once you watch it it’s sure to stick around in your brain for a long while after.

It Follows is out on Limited Edition 4K UHD and Blu-ray on 11th September from Second Sight Films.

1 comment

  1. Great post.
    Always loved this film, the atmosphere, the cinematography, the dreamy somewhat surreal atmosphere throughout. One of my favorite horrors in recent years.

    Definitely needs a rewatch soon.

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