Klavan On The Culture

'It Follows'

David Robert Mitchell’s horror movie It Follows has been getting a lot of love from elite critics but in spite of that it’s actually very good. It tells the story of a sexually transmitted disease which causes a monster in various human forms to follow you and, if it catches you, kill you. As a sort of tribute to slasher pictures like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the Follows monster never runs, only walks relentlessly.

The best thing about the picture, from my point of view, is that the monster always looks human and can even look like someone you know, so you’re never sure who it is. This is in keeping with Klavan’s Horror Rule #1 which states that the most frightening thing you can see onscreen is a living human being with dead eyes. The dead-eyed man or woman who stands still and stares at you blankly across a crowded room is more frightening than the monster in Alien or Freddy Krueger or anyone else in make-up or costume. It Follows takes advantage of this fact, which requires real discipline and restraint on the part of the director.

The film takes place in the Democrat-destroyed city of Detroit — but when it takes place is open to question. Mitchell uses the Democrat-created urban blight of the city to disguise his playful rejiggering of time cues. For instance, one girl uses a cellphone but another uses a trimstyle phone I haven’t seen in years. All the movies people watch in the film are old and some of the television sets date from the sixties. All the cars are old. A teenaged girl shows up at one point wearing grandma underwear you couldn’t buy in a modern store. Yet the sexual and racial ethics are clearly modern.

In other words, the film takes place in Horror Movie Time. Some of the settings even seem to have come straight out of other horror films like Halloween. Normally, this sort of frou-frou artsy stuff would annoy me — shut up and tell the story already — but somehow Mitchell makes it work. 

In fact, in general, I’m always wary of highly praised genre material because so often it fulfills some intellectual yearning of the critics without actually being thrilling or scary for the rest of us. But It Follows manages to be eerie and tense and arty all at the same time. It’s a cool film with subtle scares and a really spooky final shot. Well worth seeing, if you like the genre.

And speaking of the genre, if you haven’t checked out my new novel Werewolf Cop, you should. You really should.