It Follows

I'm not going to review or analyze David Roger Mitchell's innovative horror film It Follows. I thought it was very good. You keep thinking about it after the last frame. Even the flaws are interesting.

I do want to remark on the central motif. And to be clear, I'm not referring to the sexual contagion premise, which I take, for the most part, to be an intentionally distracting plot device that's economically drawn from genre vocabulary. No, I'm referring to the horrific motif where one is being stalked by a lumbering unseen malefic identity-shifting human-in-appearance entity. It sounds like something that's "been done" when I describe it that way, but no, it really hasn't. Not like this.

I found this to be authentically creepy specifically because it recalls with laser precision the content of a recurring nightmare that I have had since I was very young. I watch a lot of films (and I've seen tons of horror movies) but I have seldom seen something from my intimate dream life depicted with such weird tonal exactitude (an exception is the "Winky's Diner" sequence in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, which I have elsewhere cited as an unexpected example of palpable Lovecraftian horror).

Being curious about some of the literary and cultural references in the film, I did some Googling and soon came upon an informative article that calls out a quote by David Roger Mitchell from a Newsweek interview. Here's an excerpt from the first article, where the quote is framed:

“The basic idea of being followed by something that is slow but never stops is from a nightmare I had when I was a kid,” writer-director David Robert Mitchell told Newsweek. “I would see someone in the distance, and they would just be walking very slowly towards me, and I would turn to the people around me and point them out, and they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. I immediately knew that this was a monster, something that was going to hurt me. And I would run away from it and wait, and then eventually it would come around the corner. I could always get away from it, but what was horrible about it was that it just never stopped. It was always coming for me.”

So it's not just me then. Seriously, that's my recurring dream in its exact form. It still visits me now and then, and I still sometimes wake in a bolt of ridiculous terror. Is this more common than I imagined?

Like I said, no analysis. I know this one is going to be discussed to death. I'm sure there are haters, and I'm just as sure that favored interpretations are going to get predictably stuck on the wrong stuff. I have my own tunneled notion of what It Follows is "saying," but while others go on about it being a wink-wise genre throwback, I wanted to record my strong impression that the scary core of the film is as thrillingly original as it is eerily familiar. That's all.

Memento mori.

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