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It Follows 2014

It Follows

It Follows

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About the It Follows 💬

For 19-year-old Jay Height (Maika Monroe), fall should be about school, boys and weekends at the lake. Yet, after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions; she can't shake the sensation that someone, or something, is following her. As the threat closes in, Jay and her friends must somehow escape the horrors that are only a few steps behind.

  • The Genesis of It Follows

IT FOLLOWS is indeed terrifying at times, but it's unmistakably a product of the same mind as Myth. ''I guess it wasn't a big leap for me in my head,'' Mitchell said of the transition. ''I love horror movies. I want to make a lot of different movies and I like the idea of playing with genre. I thought that it would be interesting to take the tone of Myth and imagine characters with a similar feel to them, and put them in a scary situation and see how they would react. I tried to portray them with genuine qualities like those I tried to give the characters in Myth - I didn't think, oh, because it's a horror film that's not necessary. I wanted them to be people that I cared about.''

The characters in IT FOLLOWS - all teenagers - feel notably akin to their precursors from Myth. Jay is a college student living in the suburbs of Detroit. She has a close group of friends, including Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Paul (Keir Gilchrist), and her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), all of whom will become endangered after Jay starts being followed by a nefarious supernatural presence of unknown origin.

The germinating idea of the film - of Jay being followed, slowly but consistently, by a monster - came from nightmares Mitchell had as a child. ''I remember having nightmares where something is following you, and in the nightmare, it's sort of slow and persistent. In the dream, I was at the school playground. I looked over across the parking lot and saw this other kid walking towards me. Somehow I knew this was a monster. Then I started running away. I would run down a whole block and wait a moment, and then it would step out and keep walking towards me. It's about the idea that something is consistently coming after you and it always knows where you are. The nightmare always sat with me. Somewhere as an adult, I had the idea to build it into a film. I wrote it really quickly - it took about a week.''

Mitchell is an admirer of horror cinema, and as the film came together he and his key crew immersed themselves in numerous standbys of the genre. ''I was watching Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, some Cronenberg. Halloween, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Blue Velvet, Eyes Without A Face, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Those are things I was looking at. There's also a little Hitchcock influence in terms of how we used a subjective point of view. There were also some photographers whose work we looked at like Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido.''

As IT FOLLOWS began to come together, Mitchell was tasked with finding the actress to play Jay, an incredibly demanding role that necessitated lots of physical strength and emotional hysterics. He found his leading lady in Maika Monroe, who in recent years has appeared in At Any Price, Labor Day, and The Guest. ''Maika read for the part and she was fantastic,'' Mitchell related. ''There was a vulnerability to her. There was a scene where my reaction to her was, 'Oh my gosh, this poor girl.' It went beyond what I put on the page. There was an intensity to her.''

For Monroe, trusting Mitchell was easy due to his commitment to executing his vision for the Film. ''I was impressed with how he spoke about the movie and how closely it touched him. When he sent over the information about what he wanted the film to look like, I was blown away by how specific it all was, the details. I thought to myself, this guy is special. This guy is different from the rest. I was drawn to him and to the role.''

  • The Narrative of It Follows

IT FOLLOWS opens with a virtuoso long take, involving numerous rotations of the camera as a young woman flees from an unseen threat. It situates the viewer in Mitchell's stylistic world, which is comprised of complex camera movements. In fact, director of photography Mike Gioulakis said it was the most complex shot in the film to capture. ''The opening shot of the film was a 360-degree pan with some zooms on about 50 feet of track. We rehearsed and rehearsed and got just a couple good takes in before there was no light. It was tense!'' The complexity of the camerawork provides a dreamlike eeriness to the world as depicted; in other words, the surreal qualities of Mitchell's nightmares carry through into the film's atmosphere.

''We wanted to create an environment where the camera wasn't telling you where to look all the time,'' Mitchell explained. ''Where you would be scanning the edges of the frame looking for something. The camera is a little distant. We wanted to suggest to the audience that they should be looking a little in the distance, wondering what's out there. The idea is that things are out there and we're not going to shout to you when something dangerous is approaching. There's definitely a dreamlike quality to it.''

As we come to meet Jay and her friends, that dreamlike quality is boosted by the fact that Mitchell portrays a world that is indistinguishable in its exact time period. ''I wanted to create a world that isn't completely real. This isn't a period piece and it's not a modern piece - it's something different. I like to think of it as in its own time but with things that we are very familiar with.''

Jay is in the early stages of a relationship with Hugh (Jake Weary), an older guy whom she clearly is attracted to, but has yet to form a deep bond. One night, after sleeping together in Hugh's car, their relationship takes a dramatic turn. As Jay lounges in the backseat of the car, Hugh sneaks up behind her and knocks her out with chloroform. Later, as she wakes, she realizes she's tied to a chair in an abandoned building, where Hugh explains that he doesn't want to hurt her, but what he's about to tell her is so shocking that he had to tie her up so she would listen to him. Hugh explains that he's being followed by a monstrous thing of some sort. This thing takes the form of various humans, sometimes known by the person being followed, sometimes strangers. Sometimes they appear naked, other times with clothing.

Hugh explains that the thing starts following you after you sleep with someone whom is being followed by it, and the only way to stop being followed by it is to sleep with someone else. If it catches you, it will kill you. Jay horrified and shocked, remains there with Hugh as the thing starts to appear, in the guise of a naked woman, approaching them slowly. Jay and Hugh escape before it can catch them. The scene is shocking in its transitioning of the narrative from one of everyday teenage life to eerie horror. Mitchell wanted to portray Jay's shock as naturalistically as possible. ''I have always imagined Hugh was someone Jay hasn't been seeing for very long, but she really likes him and they sleep together very quickly. I think she has genuine feelings for him. I think he genuinely likes her as well, though that may be in conflict with the things that he does. What happens to Jay is overwhelming and ridiculous - it's insane. We tried to portray how someone might actually feel in this situation, being overwhelmed and not knowing if this is real. But if you're in this kind of a situation it's going to become reality to you at some point.''

Jay's doubts and fears about what may or may not have happened continue to plague her in the aftermath of that evening, and she begins sharing her concerns with her friends who try to reassure her that everything will be fine. However, as Jay continues to see the monster following her - at school, at home - she realizes that she has to find a way to kill it. With the help of her neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto), Jay and her friends retreat to Greg's mom's beach house to try to escape the monster and devise a plan. The monster ends up approaching them there and the teens take refuge in a shed on the beach, providing for one of the film's most anxiety-inducing sequences.

Like everything else in the film, Mitchell conceptualized this sequence down to the last detail. ''Those shots and ideas are very planned and the feeling is there on the page. We spent a lot of time on that sequence. It was storyboarded, but it was modified due to the location and a lot of things on set, as is the reality of production. We did our best to get as much of the storyboards on camera, it's really a logistical race to make sure there is enough time to do what is needed technically while balancing that with creative needs, giving the actors time for them to do what they need to do.''

Monroe's performance, of a character who is imperiled throughout much of the film, is a standout, and one that was extremely demanding of the actress, both mentally and physically. ''I really trusted David. 'I don't want to have to run into that wall again, but if you say we need it again, I'm going to!' I remember shooting one of the pool scenes - 'No Maika, we didn't quite get it, you have to get pulled into the pool one more time.' Probably one of the hardest scenes was going into the lake. It was freezing. But I enjoy that kind of stuff because it helped me feel like Jay. I definitely got bruised up. It was exhausting. And every day you get up six in the morning and do it again.'' Monroe explained that the exhaustion of the shoot, combined with isolation she imposed on herself on the set, helped her better put herself in Jay's beleaguered headspace. ''Everyday I was either running for my life or screaming or crying. During the shooting day, I was living in it. On set I would have my headphones in, listening to pretty dark music. It was very, very hard, but it was so worth it.''

As the film progresses, Jay and her friends try to deal with getting rid of the monster in a number of different ways. In one attempt to move on, Jay decides to sleep with Greg, as this will lead to the monster following him and leaving her alone. While Jay becomes involved with Greg, it becomes apparent that Paul, who was extremely close with Jay when he was younger but has grown apart from her as they've aged, has strong romantic feelings for her. Jay's complex relationship with Paul will come to provide the underpinning for a crucial event that occurs toward the close of the narrative. ''Jay is a little older than Paul,'' Mitchell explained. ''They're at a point where that tiny age gap has put distance between them. Paul is basically in love with her from a distance but he's not close to her anymore, and she doesn't see him the same way. Their relationship concerns whether they're able to come together in some way or not. I think some of the jealousy he has is interesting.''

While Mitchell is hesitant to say too much about the film's thematic content (of which there is much to parse), he does allow for certain interpretive possibilities regarding the sexual means by which the film's monster is both caught and released. ''I think that some people will see the film as an expression of people needing to be careful, to be moral about sexuality, and I think other people might see it other ways as well. You get this thing through sex, but hopefully, you can get rid of it through sex too. Both points of view are fair. There are all kinds of anxiety at this point in a young person's life – I can remember myself. These anxieties seem like pretty common things and it seemed interesting to me to exaggerate them to a life and death level.''

  • The Craft Of It Follows

IT FOLLOWS features a rigorous style of formal camerawork, which Mitchell and cinematographer Michael Gioulakis intensely prepared for during pre-production. From the opening shot onwards, the film is filled with many complex long takes that involve intricate camera movement. ''David and I were fortunate enough to have time before production to go through the entire script together, planning the way we wanted to cover each scene,'' Gioulakis related. ''We had about a dozen meetings over the course of a couple months. David would come into each meeting with rough storyboards that he had drawn with a clear vision of how he wanted to approach each scene. It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to sit down and really think in depth about the best way to convey the mood, perspective, and look we wanted for the film. The goal for most of the visual approach was to play things in wider shots, finding interesting compositions, and letting the scene play out with minimal coverage. We wanted to convey a very distant, sterile feeling to the camerawork, trying as much as possible to lessen the audience's perception of a human presence behind the lens. There's a certain eeriness to these shots, which helps create the setting for the world of IT FOLLOWS. These also serve as a counter to subjective moments where we are handheld with Jay. We felt swapping from the objective lens, to seeing from Jay's perspective, would help to intensify some of the dramatic encounters with the 'It.' ''

In his collaboration with the film's composer, Rich Vreeland (a.k.a. Disasterpeace), Mitchell was very specific about what sort of sound he was looking for - often using placeholder, or temp, tracks to give a sense of tone - while giving Vreeland the freedom to try different things. ''David has a clear vision of his film. This was my first feature film score, and I think his confidence made the collaboration easier. He helped me to hit the ground running,'' Vreeland said. ''Temp scores often draw skepticism from composers. It can put the composer in an awkward place, where they are trying to improve on a piece that may already be working in a scene. I think in our situation though, it helped us to establish the language of the film early and build a rapport.''

In regards to creating the specific sound of the score, Vreeland added, ''We tried to create electronic music that wraps the film in a dark and beautiful environment. I created most of the sounds from scratch with a synthesizer, but I wrote most of the melodic material at the piano.''

While most horror films eschew long takes in favor of a more montage-heavy approach, Gioulakis embraced the idea of filling the film's long takes with dread. ''Nailing the long takes was a dance between the timing of the camera, the background, and our talent. We relied on mostly natural or minimal lighting for these shots, focusing on lighting the environment and letting that craft the mood as opposed to lighting for faces. To me, these shots play a large role in creating the world for the film and play against the typical way in which horror movies create suspense with cuts.''

It Follows Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

David Robert Mitchell

Writing Credits

David Robert Mitchell


Mika Monroe

Keir Gilchrist

Olivia Luccardi

Lili Sepe

Jake Weary

Daniel Zovatto

Music by

Rich Vreeland

Cinematography by

Mike Gioulakis

Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Country: United States

It Follows Official Trailer

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