Keep in mind that this is an opinion piece, and I will fully admit that I acknowledge and to some degree even understand the following that It Follows has gained. It really is gorgeous to look at. Not only is it really well shot, but it’s shot in a very particular kind of way that is meant to make horror fans nostalgic. Normally, that’s exactly what I go for in a film like this. I’m more than happy to let any movie play into my nostalgia. There are very direct visual callbacks in It Follows to classics like Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Those moments really did delight me to see.
The score is also incredible. There have been a swarm, it seems, of early 80’s sounding synth soundtracks recently. But It Follows easily ranks among the best of them, by far.
Loving all of these things about it as I do, I still stand by my claim. I don’t think It Follows is anything close to the best horror of the year. In fact, I think it has a lot of problems. Sure, these things I’ve pointed out are great, but they’re not so much about the content of the movie as they are about the way it was made. The quality of filmmaking is just fine.
The story is another matter. On principle, the idea of a ghost or demon that you simply can’t escape is excellent. It worked extremely well for A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy is unavoidable because everyone has to sleep. It Follows is like a combination of Nightmare on Elm Street and The Ring. This is a demon that latches onto you during intercourse with someone. You cannot get rid of the demon until you pass it onto someone else—and this can only be done through sex. Again, sexually transmitted evil sounds great on paper, but as soon as the story starts unfolding it gets into extremely problematic territory.
First and foremost, It Follows was considered to be a throwback horror, through and through to the 1980’s. But in doing that and making this the plot, it plays into a stereotype of ‘80s horror that does not cast a reflection on the filmmakers that they actually love and respect those features.
The “have sex and die” aspect of the ‘80’s is fully embraced by It Follows when most of the filmmakers behind those early slasher classics have said time and again that any perception of that element is purely accidental. In Halloween, Laurie is the one who can sense what’s going on because she’s not as preoccupied as the other girls, it has nothing to do with whether or not she’s a virgin. In Friday the 13th, the one from which we stem almost all of our slasher tropes, it’s actually implied that Alice has had sex already during her time at camp. The kids in A Nightmare on Elm Street were paying for their parents’ sins, not their own. It Follows is only enforcing a stereotype that the genre has spent quite some time trying to rid itself of.
The second problem is much clearer on the surface. It’s actually pretty simple. In It Follows, you have to have sex with someone and knowingly kill them by doing it, so who are you supposed to root for? This is an evil spread, essentially, by rape. It requires a lot of truly awful moves on the part of the core characters to get rid of it, so where does the sympathy come from? There are no good guys, there are only lesser versions of the bad guy. And even then, this demonic entity is still kind of getting what it wants.
It Follows just had too many uncomfortable things for me to really get on board with it as much as I had wanted to. Even if the point was to make the audience uncomfortable, a movie still has to do more than that and it can’t go about that by doing it in this way. You don’t tell I Spit On Your Grave from the rapists’ perspective. While that is an extreme example, it’s not like the elements of rape aren’t really there. Nobody is consenting to being killed by an evil demon. And the people passing it along are by and large sleeping with people they would never otherwise sleep with, so it may not be entirely consensual on their part either. And before you ask, this is not a “two wrongs make a right” kind of situation.
It Follows did do its job in disturbing me, but it has a lot of glaring issues that I don’t even think were intentional, though I can’t see how so many filmmakers would have missed them. I wanted to like it, but I just had too many problems with it too quickly to the point that it truly felt like a chore to get to the end. I honestly probably wouldn’t have even gotten that far if it weren’t for the music.
For a drastically different take on the film, see our original review right here.