Much has been made of the new horror It Follows, with many fans of the genre raving that it is a game changer. While I might not go quite as far in my praise for it I do think it is the finest scary movie we have been given in years, with an original yet familiar premise that is expertly delivered. All the discussion surrounding it got me thinking about the facets of horror genre in general.
Firstly lets talk about the film and why it has caused such ripples. The simple set-up (it's not Interstellar) is that various teens are plagued by some sort of apparition that only the inflicted with a sexually transmitted curse can see. This demon can take the form of any human and will approach the afflicted at walking pace continually, and cannot be dissuaded. When it catches up to you, you are brutally killed and it goes after whoever passed it down to you. This means any figure walking towards a cursed teen is a potential monster, and this serves up some brilliant scenes. Not that you will mind by that point. We follow a young girl called Jay as "It" follows her.
The well worn adage of pre-marital sex causing teens to meet a grisly end is given a face-lift and it works amazingly well. This is due in part to the strong performances, excellent soundtrack and remarkable setting. The film seems to exist in present day suburban Detroit (a cheap location to film I'm sure) but could easily be the 70's to look at it. Parents are non-existent peripheral figures (as per usual) so it's up to the stricken Jay and her helpful friends to figure out how to defeat It. These friends show the kind of Milhouse-like dedication to Jay that I cannot imagine inspiring myself. Likewise, if my friend told me a demonic apparition was relentlessly following them the last thing I would do is go chill by a lake with them.
The music is also well worth a mention. It is all written and performed by a young man appropriately called Disasterpeace, who seems to take a similar totalitarian approach to the acclaimed composer Vangelis (who provided the inimitable sound for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire) with similarly impressive results. It is a synth-filled throwback to James Carpenter's early efforts in the genre and fits in perfectly with the location too, timeless yet nostalgic like Predator or a Happy Meal. Fans of the the much celebrated soundtrack for Nicolas Winding-Refn's Drive will love it.
Horror as a genre is a bit like many of its murderous protagonists. They are generally very predictable, brutal and often clumsy and hollow. For the most part is has been done to death as well. No other genre has seen such proliferation of sequels and reboots; Halloween had 10 sequels, Friday the 13th has had 12. They are cheap to make and always have an audience so a lot of the industry have given up trying to be creative in this area, much to the woe of its real fans. Not everybody has taken the easy route though.
The last few years have seen a splattering of intelligent and original additions to the teen-massacre film canon. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods is an excellent meta homage to the genre and all its foibles. Scream 4 was funny, current and arguably the best of the series. Even the new slew of jump-fest horrors being churned out by James Wan like The Conjuring and Insidious are at least trying to tell more interesting stories. Unlike the prospects for the happy-go-lucky adolescents in these films, perhaps things are looking up for the genre.
It Follows is excellent. It is atmospheric, genuinely creepy and crucially you give a damn about the teens who are one copulation away from an agonising death. So many horrors of late inspire no pathos with the characters they summarily butcher on screen and are all the worse for it. See it for yourself and it will defy your expectations of what modern horror can be, as well as make you closely examine everybody walking towards you for at least a week afterwards.