Saturday, 26 September 2015

Scary Saturday: Promiscuity Kills

Recently, I discussed the successes of certain horror films and what makes a 'good' horror (the article can be read here). Today is a day dedicated to some of the modern examples of the genre. So I ask you this question: would you rather be chased by a hungry lion for an hour or a giant, deadly snail for the rest of your life? This is one of my personal favourite 'would you rather' questions. The slow snail seems like an inviting option however there is the constant knowledge that it is coming for you. You can always run, but eventually it will catch up. Today's film explores a similar topic. This is It Follows. 

Jay (Maika Monroe) is your normal 19-year-old girl. She goes to school, she enjoys swimming in her pool, she likes boys. She has sex with one boy in particular, Hugh (Jake Weary), in the back of his car after a date. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Well, that is until Hugh covers her mouth with a cloth and knocks her out. Suddenly, Jay is introduced to her new life; a life in which she is always being chased by something. Whatever it is, it has the ability to appear as anyone and if it catches you, you die. It can be passed on to another person by having sex with them, but if they die, it comes back after you. Oh, and it can only walk, never run. With her group of slightly awkward school friends, Jay has to fight both a battle for her life, and a moral battle: does she keep running or does she knowingly inflict her curse on someone else?

From the moment It Follows begins, something terrifying is going on. A girl runs out onto the road in fear wearing next to nothing, before getting into a car and driving as fast as she can away. The next morning, her body is found distorted and bent out of shape. No explanation from the film, just the notion that whatever it is, it is bad. What follows is the world's most beautifully shot, slow motion foot chase. The brilliance of it is that it could be anyone of the extras in the background, any one of her friends, any person on the street. The ominous notion that anyone could be trying to kill you means it has to be treated as everyone is trying to kill you, which is an isolating and lonely experience. Not to mention that it appears in all sorts of nasty ways: a staring naked man, a girl urinating on herself, a young boy with hollow eyes. It Follows has no need for guts and gore, it relies on suspense and shock.

The intrigue of It Follows is in its layers. One part The Breakfast Club, one part Halloween, David Robert Mitchell's take on a coming-of-age tale is suspenseful, but also deeply warming. There is more than just a scary story here, there is a deep core structured around friendships. Jay's friends, particularly Paul (Keir Gilchrist), don't write her off as crazy. Immediately they want to help her resolve whatever the situation is, even if it makes no sense. But do not underestimate the horror value because of this. We join Jay in the unique perspective of being the only person in the group that can see it, and because of this, the film can utilise dramatic irony freely and effectively. At one point a looming figure walks through the doorway with some of the teenagers who are completely unaware of his presence. But we are, and we share in Jay's fear. The film doesn't makes little use of jump scares, it prefers to keep the audience constantly in the know, along with Jay, but also positioning her, and therefore us, somewhere in which it is impossible to help the situation. It's emotionally draining and completely chilling.
An excellent demonstration of what the horror genre can still offer. Something smart, charming, and ultimately rather scary. A refreshing breath of ingenuity and originality into the female-led horror cliches places It Follows well above its competition. It is modern, it is fun, and it is exciting.

Best Bit? The group head to the beach to put some distance between them and it, but soon enough Yara, Jay's sister, is in two different places at once. And one Yara is walking very slowly towards Jay.

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