Movie Review - It Follows

I've been listening to Kumail Nanjiani's podcast and as a result I've been re-watching The X-Files. News of the TV series' resurrection also has the science-fiction and horror program on my brain. As such, this film by writer-director David Robert Mitchell seems like it could be a stand-alone episode of The X-Files, but absent the FBI agents investigating the paranormal danger and focusing solely on the victims.

Given all the discussions surrounding The Babadook (2014), another recent independent, horror film, it's a wonder if similar discussions will surround this movie. Those discussions might be similar. Critics believed that the villain in The Babadook was a metaphor for grief or mental illness. If we are to go along the same lines, some might believe that the villain here is a metaphor too. The question is for what.

Maika Monroe (Labor Day and The Guest) stars as Jay, a young girl who seems to be a college student in Michigan, possibly Detroit. There's a reference to 8 Mile Road. She possibly lives at home. We never see her parents interacting with her or present at home. Yet, they are referenced as if they were readily available. We only see her with her friends and boyfriend.

She starts dating a guy named Hugh, played by Jake Weary, who starts acting weird or very strangely. After having sex with her one night in the back seat of his car, Hugh reveals the existence of a paranormal being that literally follows you by walking and when it catches up to you, it kills you. Hugh says it only follows one person at a time and only that one person. It will change who it's following in one of two ways. Either after it kills its target or its target has sex with someone new, and then it will be passed to that new person. There's also two tricks to it. One is that only the target can see the follower and two is that the follower can appear as and look like any person it wants.

The movie then proceeds as Jane and her friends deal with this follower. At first, her friends think she's crazy. Then, after a few dicey encounters, they all do all that they can to protect Jane and stop the follower. Mitchell directs in very foreboding ways. He has many long, tracking shots in wide angles with occasional people in the background walking toward the foreground, forcing the audience to be on edge that any random person could be the follower.

To further throw the audience off, Mitchell's production design is such that you could be confused as the time period. From the decor of homes, certain objects therein and even cars the characters drive, one might assume the film is taking place in the 1970's. The tone is very much akin to 70's horror films. With only a few slight changes, this could easily be a John Carpenter film from back then, like Halloween (1978).

There are of course a lot of frustrating questions. Even though it feels intentional in order to amplify the terror, the movie keeps the police at more than arm's length, not like Carpenter did. Yet, in terms of the follower, this paranormal being generates a lot of queries about the mechanics, which never get answered.

The follower can be passed when its target has sex with someone new. The movie only depicts heterosexual intercourse. What about homosexual acts? Does any sex act count? What about bestiality? No exploration of this is proffered.

The follower only walks after its target, like a zombie. It can kill in any number of ways, whether using its body and its powerful strength or other physical objects. We see the follower pick up a rock and throw it through a window in order to break into a house. It gets ridiculous because the follower is invisible to all, so when a gun is used against it, which doesn't work and one of Jane's friends is standing right next to it, it's a curiosity why the follower doesn't just grab the gun and shoot Jane.

The follower actually gets close enough to touch Jane and what does it do? It pulls at her hair. I'm curious. If the follower only walks, what if the target takes a plane across the ocean? Would the follower be able to walk across a large ocean?

But, as Wes Craven's Scream points out, this film is yet another horror film that's sex negative. Sex is seen as such a bad or dangerous thing. There's also a lack of female empowerment. Jane's boyfriend Hugh drugs and kidnaps her. She does call the police, but they can't find him. She does but she doesn't let the police know. There's probably something to this that runs deeper but absent of context, it just makes Jane seem weak.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.


  1. It is extremely well made, beautifully shot, incredibly paced, and certainly haunting, but it's not the down and dirty horror machine it's being billed as.


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