It Follows unsettles from its first second on screen. As a young woman desperately scrambles to escape from some unseen threat, the film’s soundtrack buzzes and thrums in a manner that is disorientating, unbearable and thrilling in equal measure. “It’s an assault,” writer-director David Robert Mitchell says of his rumbling score. “I wanted to attack the audience.”
As with its arresting opening, It Follows is defined by the control Mitchell exerts over every scene – the filmmaker mentions that he spent months on the storyboards alone. The result is one of the most atmospheric and impressive horror movies of recent years, sanctuary from the genre’s regular glut of sequels and uninspired knock-offs. Its premise is elegantly simple. After having sex on a date, Jay (Maika Monroe) learns that she has what might be best described as a supernatural STD: a shape-shifting figure in constant pursuit, which will kill her unless she has sex with someone new to pass the infection along. Her problems don’t end there, though: the chain must be continued, so if the next person dies before having sex then the scourge will revert back to her.
Teeming with subtext and possible allegorical readings, It Follows plays out like the worst sort of bad dream, as Mitchell reshapes adolescent sexual anxiety into deathly manifestations of friends, family and hideous strangers. Below, the director explains how he brought his film to eerie life.