I keep saying I can’t handle supernatural horror movies, because my imagination runs amok and I keep thinking I’ll look up at the bathroom mirror after gargling and see a faceless girl with long black hair lurking behind me. Yet when it comes to it, when I actually sit down for a supernatural horror film, my nerves are steady, even more so than the horror buffs I accompany. Why this is, I have no idea, but at least it allows me to stomach some ghosts and spirits before I die.
The ghost in It Follows is a mighty fine one, not least because it can take the form of anyone and will apparently walk across the Earth to reach you. And then when it does reach you, it toys with your bravery before presumably sucking out your soul and leaving your body in a sorry state of total disfiguration.
This ghost, which arrives at the story with no history or reason, latches on to its victim like a terminal illness with legs. It appears when you least expect it, then creeps towards you relentlessly. No one else can see it, but boy, when it flings objects around, you don’t want to be standing nearby.
It walks and walks, no matter where you go or how far you run. “It may be slow”, we are told. “But it’s not stupid”. Indeed, it knows how to mess with your emotions by transforming into loved ones.
But here’s the real clincher. It switches victims sexually, like an STD from hell. How do I mean? Well, let’s say it’s following me and I’ve had enough. I want to be able to stroll through the park without having to be killed. All I have to do is find a girl who’s willing to sleep with me, let go of all guilt, and pass the ghost on to her, in all likelihood through intercourse. Sound a bit crazy? There’s a catch though. Because the ghost walks with the intent to kill and will return to hunting its former target should its primary die, I must warn my sexual partner of the danger I’ve now transmitted, which makes consensual sex very difficult indeed. This also leads me to wonder: Does the ghost get passed along between homosexuals? Could the chain theoretically end forever?
We meet Jay Height (Maika Monroe), an attractive young girl who’s so excited because she thinks she’s found Mr. Right. That is, of course, until he has sex with her, abducts her, and introduces her to the walking ghost. Now she’s terrified, and the boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), will go down as the biggest douchebag of all time.
Jay huddles her friends together for protection, but like I said, nothing stops this thing. They run, crawl, and drive away from it, and always it reappears, calm, reliable. This works as a horror device because you can be sure the ghost will turn up eventually. There is no question.
It Follows is written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, and it’s clear that he has a great feel for the subject matter. His film never feels tired or flat, even when little is happening in terms of tension-building. Maybe it’s because we know the ghost will show. I think it has more to do with Mitchell’s confidence. He knows he has something good here — the ghost works as a scary creature. His winning move is to tune back all the fancy special effects and makeup and focus entirely on harnessing a sense of dread, on this uneasy waiting game that will most probably end in death. Like The Blair Witch Project (1999), the fun is in the waiting.
It doesn’t hurt either that Jay is a loveable girl who just wanted to fall in love. Bad luck, though.
I might have a solution for her. Get all her friends to pitch in, buy a ticket to anywhere across the Pacific, time the ghost to see how long it takes to cross it (I’m thinking a minimum of ten years, if it can walk through water), then fly back home and repeat the process so that she’s now got the ghost in an endless game of cat and mouse.
Best Moment | That beach scene.
Worst Moment | Every time Jay behaves like a typical horror genre teenager, making stupid moves like following the ghost into a bedroom.