It Follows is one of the greatest new horror films to come out in recent years. It uniquely subverts the tropes of horror classics past while having a look, music, and plot elements that homages them. The teens-having-sex-and-then-dying trope is in the quintessential staple of slasher films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. It Follows takes that trope and subverts it into something completely new and nightmare-inducing. It’s villain is an STD that manifests itself. You must pass it along to someone by having sex with them. Or else, you will be followed by a creature (who could look like someone you know, or a stranger) and if they catch up with you, an untimely and gruesome death will follow.
What is unique about It Follows, aside from its inventive plot, is that it takes the iconography of horror films past to create a timeless suburban slasher fairy world. Main characters drive vintage cars, living rooms have old televisions, the ones with the rabbit ears, on which they only watch old black and white horror films. It is an odd retro-futuristic mix, for we clearly see 2015 cars in the background as well. Also, one character has a tiny shell compact that is like a small Kindle. (It’s not real—I checked. Wish it was though!)
One scene uses this lack of modern technology to completely echo A Nightmare on Elm Street. Our heroine, Jay uses her landline 1980s style phone to call her neighbor that lives across from her, who she fears is being followed by the mis being followed by the dangerous “It”. She stares helplessly out the window waiting for him to pick up. We recall the infamous Johnny Depp death scene, where Nancy Thompson stares helplessly out the window as she tries to call her across the street neighbor and boyfriend.
The closeness of neighborhood friends reflects the story of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the small suburban community which horror is wreaking havoc upon, but that scene outright homages it. Think how different that scene would have played out with an iPhone. Would we have still called to mind that horror classic? It Follows has deliberately placed us in this other-world.
Of course, any film about suburban horror will recall Halloween. But the shots of something walking and stalking is clearly reminiscent of the film, and echoes Michael Myers languidly following or slowly receding into the background. But it is the difference of music that marks an interesting distinction between the films.
Rich Vreeland’s lusciously surreal synthesizer score does what John Carpenter’s score did in Halloween but in a different method. (Though the scores are a bit similar) Though the shots are similar, the feeling the music gives is quite different. Carpenter’s infamous score is creepingly slow and atmospheric. It offers a quietly gripping tension. You know something is prowling somewhere.
Rich Vreeland’s pulsating rhythms fill you with a more imminent dread, a heart-pounding plunge down the roller coaster and going on the run. Michael Myers lurked in the shadows, but what is following you is here in broad daylight and you better run.
As the years go by, we wait for new horror classics but that is rarely delivered. We become nostalgic for the classics past. The looks of those films will forever be permeated in our culture. This causes us to wonder if horror films will ever be able to escape that and establish its own new look? It Follows chooses to soak itself in an overall nostalgic look, as if it could easily place itself on a shelf with those classics and not be mistaken for a modern film. It Follows uses elements in technology used, story and camerawork from horror classics to create a horror dream world. This is used quite effectively, for not only does It Follows echoes films of horror past, but manages to stand on its own as a potential new horror classic.