It Follows:

A Review

REVIEW: It Follows
Release Date: March 27, 2015
Writer & Director: David Robert Mitchell
Staring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Run time: 100 minutes

Rating: 5 (of 10)


I really love when a film scares the piss out of me.

This is an extremely rare occurrence. Alien. Blair Witch. Gamork from The Neverending Story with his horrible wolf face peering at me through the darkness. But those films were ages ago. My pants have been completely dry for over 15 years.

Last week when I was getting ready to see It Follows, I thought the drought might finally end. Based on the marketing and word of mouth leading up to its release, I had near Exorcist-level expectations for the film. It was continually and effectively billed as the best horror movie in years. The trailer was chilling and its rating was through the roof on Rotten Tomatoes before it even came out (it’s sitting at an incredible 95% right now). I was even jazzed by the casting of Maika Monroe, who had a great turn in one of my favorite films of 2014 – the horror/sci-fi thriller, The Guest. I truly believed I needed to double up on the boxer-briefs before watching It Follows.

But even with all the hype and the solidly foreboding atmosphere that the film manages in its 100 minutes, It Follows is nowhere near as good as the Tomato people would have you believe. Not even close. Not even ketchup.

The movie is certainly suspenseful. It has a good cast. The music is great. It has a really interesting premise about a stalking, supernatural entity that can be transferred to people through sex. But what this ultimate STD doesn’t have is a smart script or any real grasp on how the monster operates.

Maika Monroe plays Jay, a completely uninteresting young woman who seems like she’s on the verge of a relationship with handsome Hugh. But after they have sex in his car, everything starts getting weird. He drugs Jay, ties her up in a wheelchair and tells her that he has knowingly transferred a malicious being to her. It can look like anyone and it will stalk her relentlessly. Its only purpose is to kill her and then start killing whomever was tied to it previously, all the way down the line. Hugh shows Jay exactly what she’s dealing with in one of the film’s more sinister scenes. We see a naked woman methodically sauntering toward them in the darkness with singular, homicidal intent. Hugh wheels Jay to his car, peels away and deposits her on the street in front of her house where she’s left to contend with this unknown evil on her own.

Sounds spectacular, doesn’t it?

It was. Unfortunately, soon after this excellent beginning the script falters and the characters become so ludicrously unintelligent I felt compelled to jump in the film and sleep with someone just so I could solve their problems.

But before I do that, here’s a little bit of what happens next… After moping about and mostly hiding herself away in her house, Jay sees the entity at her school and freaks out. She asks her friends to spend the night at her place to keep watch. Soon after the slumber party assembles, the entity comes for her again. No one can see it except Jay, making her chums completely useless, but she manages to get away. After the encounter, she decides it’s time to get proactive. Jay and her friends, along with the obligatory bad boy, band together to figure out what the hell is happening. They think Jay is nuts, but they all go along because they want to have sex with her. Well, except maybe that girl who farts once for laughs and then does nothing else for the rest of the film.

Jay’s plan? Track down Hugh, who turns out to actually be a dude named Jeff. Even though Jay never visited his pad, she knows where he was holed up, because she tells the police she does. The local law enforcement, of course, has zero success finding her assailant even with that information. Fortunately Jay and her scoobies are on the case. They go to Hugh/Jeff’s squat house, which has a sophisticated warning system of cans tied to windows, and they find a photo of him from high school inside a porn mag; a photo the police apparently could not find, even though there are exactly six items in the house to search. The scoobs locate Jeff in a neighboring town or a block over (take your pick) and then curiously hang out with him in the park so he can tell them more about Jay’s dilemma. We learn that the entity always walks toward its host, and that putting distance between it and her will buy Jay time. Time that Jeff suggests Jay fills with doing the nasty. But she would rather learn how to shoot a gun, so everyone turns off their brains and they drive to the beach for target practice.

Okay, so here’s where I have to stop the summary for a second and ask a few important questions. Knowing that the entity only WALKS toward her and that greater distance means greater time, why would Jay not go as far as possible to formulate a better plan than “Hey, let’s shoot some bottles at the beach!” And why wouldn’t she just punch up Google Maps and let it calculate the distance and time it would take for someone to walk from Point A to B? Or, if you believe the film is set in an earlier time period (the movie’s era seems intentionally ambiguous, although a “shell phone” suggests it is modern), just make the calculations the old fashioned way. In either case, figuring out when to expect evil is pretty simple math.

At this point I get that Jay and company aren’t entirely sure what’s going on and it’s possible one could make the case that they just weren’t thinking clearly. But this is the same group that tracked down Jeff when the police failed, so I found it baffling that none of the characters were savvy enough to use the information they spent time gathering.

After an unsurprising encounter at the beach it becomes clear that the entity is physical. It can be touched, hit with a chair, shot. It bleeds. Not only that, it moves like the undead with less shuffling. It’s basically a shapeshifting invisi-zombie that seems to have Wolverine’s healing factor. But the important part to take away from this scene is that even though Jay is the only person who can see it, it’s not a ghost. It has mass. And yet, after they realize this, no one ever thinks to have Jay just spray paint ‘ol Slow-Walkin’ Sally to help the supernaturally challenged see its form. Instead Jay winds up in the hospital after crashing the car. When she wakes up she decides to have sex with the bad boy, who doesn’t actually believe what’s happening and therefore exercises zero caution. Not the smartest move when he lives across the street.

At this point I was really annoyed by all the characters and decided they deserved to die. Just from the limited knowledge Jay acquired it was clear to me that getting rid of this monster would not be a herculean task for anyone of average intellect. When Hugh and Jay had sex, they had to wait for the creature to walk to them from wherever it was previously. It doesn’t just pop up at the point of penetration. So, why not just book a flight to China and sleep with a dude over there who has no chance of ever leaving the country? Tell him about what’s happening and that based on rudimentary calculations he could possibly be murdered in 200 years, give or take however long a zombie needs to walk to China via the ocean floor. Then just go the fuck home.

Can’t get to China even with all those credit card company offers flooding your college mailbox, Jay? Then leave your friends and family behind and move to California. From the Detroit suburbs (where It Follows takes place) to San Diego, it takes roughly 750 hours to walk without pause, according to Google Maps. Or 31.25 days. After a month of margaritas on the beach, make the following plan happen: Travel back home, do the sex with your bud, then head back to Cali. A month later your pal can come visit you. Make the sex again. Then tell him to go the fuck home. Repeat until you figure out how to kill the entity or you die.

Or instead, like the characters in the film, create a hasty plan to trap the entity at the local YMCA and electrocute it by kicking appliances into the water… even though there is absolutely no evidence, discussion, or lore presented in the movie that points to electrocution as a viable remedy for a relentless, sex-powered fiend. Not to mention this scheme seems infinitely more dangerous to the stupid humans who concocted it.

Call me crazy pants, but if you’re going to attempt a trap, drive to another state and make it count. Make the time to plan for every contingency. Narrow and limit the entry and exit points so it actually gets trapped. Don’t play with your life half-assed inside an enormous building with a giant pool that you can easily fall into. And never bank on killing a monster when you know next to nothing about its abilities. After the beach scene, Team Jay confirmed it could be slowed down physically. The goal then should be to hinder its movement and prevent it from, you know, following. Killing can come later when you know how to actually do that. Maybe while you’re enjoying the sites in fucking China.

With a whole month or possibly 200+ years that I’d have to wait on this thing to finally show up on my doorstep (per my superior plans), I could set up an amazing trap. But even if I had to wing it for whatever dumb Hollywood reason, I could come up with something way better than waiting for Sauntering Sally to wade into the deep end. I’d only need a can of spray paint, a cement truck and a fine stout to immobilize this horror. The stout being used exclusively as a celebratory beverage after I lured the creature to any number of unfinished construction sites in the Motor City, painted a target on it and signaled Fart Girl to drop some Fast-Dry on its head from a hidden perch.

Instead, Director Robert David Mitchell gives us one of the most vague, unsatisfying conclusions I’ve ever seen. It has nothing to do with electrocution… or sex… or anything at all really. The only purpose it has, I guess, is to set up a sequel. The ending is the one scene I won’t spoil in this review because it’s so bad it isn’t even worth ripping apart.

How It Follows passed the script phase is beyond me. Does anyone even edit these things? Maybe the producers knew they didn’t have to. Maybe they knew they could get by on the hype machine alone. It sure hooked me and lots of others looking to piss themselves in fear. And now with its 95 tomatoes score the producers won’t need to bother following any kind of quality control procedures for the sequels. That’s a shame, because despite all the praise heaped on this movie, the only thing It Follows is a long list of badly written, underachieving horror films.

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Markisan Naso is a comic book writer and publishing expert in Chicago. His first comic book series, Voracious, debuts in February 2016 from Action Lab Entertainment. Markisan has 14 years of experience managing, editing, and revitalizing publications, including Knowledge Quest and School Library Research for the American Association of School Librarians. He has authored more than 150 features in print and on the web, covering subjects as diverse as catheter use protocols, EF5 tornadoes, and Superman. You can find out more about Markisan at

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  1. Nice article! Totally disagree, but it was a good read :)

    I really, really want to respond to your comment on the ending first and foremost because that’s what caught me most! I think the movie’s pretty upfront with it’s themes, and the “farting girl” actually nicely espouses them right before the last shot with a Dostoyevsky quote. The creature is representative of the inevitability of mortality and death, hence the ambiguous ending.

    In a larger sense too this thematic framework is why the protagonists can never actually beat the monster. In a more strict sense it’s because they’re a bunch of uneducated kids. Jay’s even been held back a year. That’s why I kind of love how awful the pool plan was.

    Of course the plane stuff crossed my mind as well. I tend to find that stuff to be rather…invalid a nitpick, if you’ll excuse the horribly superior choice of words. If the answer is “because then it would be a different kind of movie” then I’m hesitant to bring it up. Sometimes that sort of thing can help highlight a larger lack of thought on the part of the creators but It Follows is so thematic that I think it’s a simple case of themes trumping logic.

    Which I always prefer. It’s why I love something like True Detective, there’s a core to the script that influences everything.

    However if you want to play the logic game, and fair enough if you do, another thing that I really like the film is how little we know about the Follower. We have these simple rules set up by pretty dumb characters. For instance part way through watching this movie a guy I went to see it with lent over and said “couldn’t they just cross some water?” In the pool scene we see the Follower can swim. Is there any reason it couldn’t walk on a plane? Maybe it could even ride a bus or train. We simply don’t know it can’t, because despite the nice simple rules it’s clear we’re being told a limited amount of info. The Follower stays an enigma.

    And it stays representative of death, which to me is really the most important part.

    • Thanks for the comment Harry. If you liked the film, that’s perfectly fine with me. A lot of people do. And of course, likes and dislikes are subjective. I enjoy a lot of films that people say suck. However, nothing in your comments remotely challenges my review.

      But hell, since you spent time commenting, I am happy to talk about this laughable film some more.

      First, the kids being uneducated is not a good argument. As I mentioned in the review, they are able to track down Jeff when the police couldn’t. So regardless of their education level, they are depicted as resourceful and more intelligent than local law enforcement. And quite frankly, they are solely devoted to figuring out how to defeat the Follower the entire film. They don’t even work! So even if they aren’t incredibly smart they should still be able to think of something better than what we got. There is just no getting around that.

      We know the monster can’t get on a plane for three reasons. A) Jeff tells us it only and always walks toward it’s victim. When he tells Jay this information, he is absolutely certain. There is no, “Dude, I think it only walks.” This is important because the targets are going to learn about the creature as they attempt to elude it. They will test its abilities and that information will be passed down. B) The poster (see above) says, “It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.” So it’s going to have no fucking idea which plane to get on. It just goes toward it’s victim. It um… follows. The only demonstration of intelligence is creepy impersonation, which wasn’t remotely impressive. C) AND, if it could go on a plane, then why doesn’t it hitch a ride around town to get to the victims faster? Again, we know it doesn’t because they tell us it only walks. AND we have to wait for it to get everywhere in the film. That’s what creates the tension. If it was smart enough to use vehicles there would be a lot less wait and almost no suspense in most of the scenes. Plus, if it could figure out which plane to take (or travel by any vehicle, for that matter), it would be smart enough to plan its killings better. Why not just sit in the back seat of Jay’s friend’s car and wait for her to get in? It doesn’t, because it can’t think that well. And it has to be dumb to create the suspense. Again, no getting around that.

      The writers of It Follows simply don’t understand their own creation and they don’t write it well. It’s a completely flawed monster. And you can talk Dostoyevsky and all that completely irrelevant philosophy that they tacked on to the movie, but this is a horror film. If I can outsmart a monster with two seconds of thinking, it ceases to be scary. And that means the movie doesn’t do its job. Period.

      • Thank for replying Markisan!

        While there’s lots of stuff I’d love to pick apart and counter in your reply I’m pretty sure neither of us are about to change our minds, but I’d love to just tackle one thing if you don’t mind.

        I’m passing by the issue of logic entirely, to ask you about how you watch horror movies. You say in your review that you haven’t been actually frightened by a horror movie in 15 years. There quite simply have been good horror movies in the last 15 years, and I’m not sure lack of scares is indicative of the quality of the horror film. The best horror films don’t frighten me in the moment, personally. Cheap jump scares might occasionally startle me, but that’s about it. The kind of horror that interests me is the lingering unsettling aftermath of a good horror movie. That tends not to be tied to logic for me and more to thematics. Saying the thematics of It Follows are irrelevant is just horribly reductive to me. Logical issues (which we could go back and forth on all day) might have bothered you too much in the moment, and rather upset your appreciation of the larger goals of the film. Your assessment isn’t founded on the movie there, but rather the movie you imagined. Despite having a (in my opinion effective) monster it’s not a monster movie. The film’s atmospheric goals are clearly dreamlike and symbolic, and in that kind of film logic can by sidestepped (although, again, I don’t think it has been). It’s like looking for logical explanations in The Shining, what’s more important is the meaning behind what happens, not how it all lines up on the surface.

        But like I said, I’m pretty sure neither of us are going to convince the other. I guess I’d just encourage you to watch it again sometime with a more open mind.

        Anyways, thanks again for a good article, and some good discussion. ✡

  2. Hi Harry. Yeah, you absolutely can’t change my mind. Through most of It Follows I was either laughing or thinking, “What the fuck is wrong with these assholes?” There’s no coming back from that.

    However, I never said there weren’t good horror films in the last 15 years. Or that I absolutely had to be scared for a horror film to be good. In fact, I even mentioned The Guest as a horror film I enjoyed in my review. That movie isn’t scary. But yes, my anticipation for It Follows (based on the marketing) was that I might actually jump in my seat. That was exciting. So it was certainly a letdown when there were next to no scary moments.

    That said, this disappointment isn’t what compelled me to write my review. I am fine with horror films that create a creepy atmosphere but don’t make me cover my eyes. I am also more than willing to accept or forgive some illogical ideas when it comes to any fantasy. In fact, I absolutely try to go into these films with an open mind. I turn off my brain as much as possible so I can enjoy them for what they are. I don’t even really care for intensely analyzing films or being overly critical. I want to be entertained.

    But when I can unravel the entire structure of a film that has a 95% critical rating without even trying to think, that means the story is bad and the reviews are wrong. So I was compelled to write the truth that everyone fails to acknowledge.

    I think the points I made in my review are completely inarguable. But even if you did attempt that, you’d have to use logic to make any counterpoints. Since you already admitted logic isn’t important to the film, you backed yourself into a box. Arguing with logic when you’ve already said the movie’s “themes trump logic” and logic is “invalid” is just hypocritical. You can’t have it both ways, my friend.

    But that’s the crux of our discussion isn’t it? You believe the themes of the film outweigh its logic and I think the movie is so illogical the themes don’t matter. We won’t ever be able to find common ground on that.

    I think I can best sum this up by taking your own litmus test for horror films. You said, “The kind of horror that interests me is the lingering unsettling aftermath of a good horror movie.” The only lingering feeling I left It Follows with was that I needed to punch everyone who worked on the film or gave it a good rating.

    But don’t worry. After writing the review I got that out of my system. And I like you even though your review creams all over a crappy film. :-)

    Thanks for the discussion, brother.

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