Twitter Plot Summary: A teenage girl is given a curse, and is followed by a invisible force. If it catches her she dies. She has to have sex to get rid of it.
We’re suffering from a dearth of original horror films at the moment. With last year’s excellent The Babadook aside (one of my Top 10 films for all of 2014, fact fans), with many modern directors choosing to exploit the tried and tested “quiet/BANG” formula – case in point, anything made by James Wan. Ever. In light of this, it’s a genuine delight when something entertaining and, above all, scary, is produced. Step up It Follows, now is your time in the spotlight.
As you may (or may not) have read from my earlier blogging exploits, I was a latecomer into the world of horror, starting with the older, relatively tame horror films and working my way up to the likes of The Human Centipede and the extreme end of torture porn horror films. There’s only so far you can go in terms of extreme imagery, so it stands to reason that the horror film as we know it will look back on successes of the past and try to emulate whatever worked 30-odd years ago. Hey, if it worked for John Carpenter then it might work for us, right?
Jay (Maika Monroe) is a likeable, attractive teenager. She’s good looking enough to be spied upon by the local boys, yet not so up her own backside that she’s unlikeable to us mere mortals. She’s met this guy who seems like a thoroughly nice chap, but of course this proves to be a cunning ruse on his part. On their date they decide to sleep together in his car. As she sits there, content, he knocks her out with some chloroform or similar and next thing she knows, she’s tied to a chair in an abandoned factory being slowly approached by a naked lady. On that point – this might have been deliberate, but there is a lot of female nudity in this film, less so on the male nudity. There’s a big cliche right there. No pun intended. It turns out that the curse is transmitted to other people through sexual contact, and he’s now passed it to her – kind of like the ultimate STD. The options are to either sleep with someone else and pass it on to them, or to keep it and forever be on the run. The moral quandaries caused by this point alone are vast in scale, playing with our concepts of what constitutes normal relationships and subverting the idea of promiscuous teenagers.
Monroe played second fiddle in The Guest to the sublime Dan Stevens, but here she gets top billing as the girl who finds the malevolent spirit following her wherever she goes. She’s got a solid group of friends around her, including her younger sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), the slightly geeky Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and male friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and local ladies man Greg (Daniel Zovatto). Don’t expect parental support any time soon – the absent parent cliche is in full effect.
This a world in which horror cliches are subverted yet also just as frequently upheld. The premise at its core is a strong one for certain. There’s something inherently creepy about the idea of a nonspeaking, relentless force constantly on your tail, more so because it never runs, only walks in a slow and deliberate manner. In this respect it can be likened to the classic non-sprint edition of your typical zombie, albeit in this case there’s only one of them, only you (and the previously infected) can see it, and destroying the brain is only a minor inconvenience. There are of course various moments in which the rug could potentially be pulled out from under you, throwing in red herrings just to make you think the menace is nearby when in fact it’s just somebody walking through the area. The fact the thing can look like anyone adds another layer of confusion to proceedings. Is that really your friend, your sister, your mother, or is it something more evil out to get you?
This would all be less than spectacular without the soundtrack, masterfully provided by Disasterpiece and evoking the back catalogue of horror maestro. (well, perhaps not so much recently) Dario Argento. It couldn’t be more 80s in style unless it decided to crack out the Rubik’s Cube and proclaim Wham! as being the best pop group of all time.
By the end, we’re left clueless as to what the thing that follows them really is. No explanation is provided, only that if you die it will return back down the chain to the person who infected you, killing indiscriminately as it goes. It’s best left this way I think, to explain away the motives and reasons for the being’s existence would spoil much of the fun. Why give an explanation when it’s more fun leaving it to the audience’s imagination?
Of course, the answer for ridding yourself of the creature (besides having sex with an unwitting victim) is simple: as it never seems to be comfortable with crossing an ocean, just take a sojourn across the globe every 6-12 months and see how it copes with that. Problem solved.