The 1980s could quite possibly be described as one of the best cinematic eras for the horror genre. With films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween (actually released in 1978 but so similar to 1980s horror aesthetics for now we'll classify it as '80s) being released, this decade was rich with teens in deathly peril, parents who never seemed to be around, and bloodthirsty, monstrous killers. It Follows hits all those qualities and so much more.
#ItFollows is a 2014 indie thriller flick, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. Without giving away too much about the plot, the film is about a young girl who receives a sexually transmitted "demon" (as many critics describe it) and must pass it on to another host before it kills her. The catch? It follows (side note, a rather clever title) the host no matter what and does not stop until it is passed on. The plot of the film is undoubtedly original and is something very rarely seen in cinema, but the execution of the film has an incredible resemblance to film from the 1980s. While It Follows manages to resemble something of the 80s, it keeps us wondering truly what time period we are in with the use of modern technology throughout the film.
Now let's break it down into the major qualities and aesthetics of the film to determine just how It Follows honors it's predecessors so magically.
1. The Score
The soundtrack accompanying It Follows was composed by Richard Vreeland, more commonly known as Disasterpeace. Vreeland is more well known for his work in music on video game soundtracks, explaining the digital-age retro vibes heard throughout the film. In tracks like "Title," remnants of John Carpenter's Halloween theme can be heard in the way the "tinging" noise makes your heart rate speed up ever so slightly. Heavy '80s synths can be heard throughout the film, simply adding to the feeling of being in a time of the past.
2. The (Seemingly) Missing Parents
A major trope of 1980's #horror is the "missing" parents. Granted, they weren't literally missing, but it just always seemed they never were a part of their kids' lives. In movies like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the parents play rather insignificant roles. Watching these kinds of films, the viewer may catch themselves thinking things like, "Where are the parents while their kid is in the middle of the woods on a school night running from a masked murderer?" (Or something along those lines, depending on your mindset.)
In It Follows, our main character and her friends are constantly on the run from this sexually transmitted demon. Never once does any of them receive a phone call or a text from their Mom asking "Will u b home 4 dinner?" At one point during the film, one of the friends suggests they drive hours away from home to his family lake house. When questioned if his parents would be OK with it, he responds to the effect of: "They won't even notice." This line simply solidifies just how little interaction our characters have with their families.
On an ending note, there is a shot about halfway into the movie where we see into the main character's mother's bedroom. She is seen laying face down on her bed, with a large bottle (of presumably alcohol) next to her on the nightstand. Even though nothing is confirmed, this could be an allusion to her mom possibly being an alcoholic, explaining the lack of a relationship.
3. The Locations
Green lawns, scattered autumn leaves, and narrow cement sidewalks; even from the first five minutes of It Follows, strong similarities can be pulled from films like Halloween. Throughout the film, there are several wide shots giving us a look into where our characters are from and what their surroundings are like. In every one, we see the typical Midwest suburban neighborhood (otherwise known as the stereotypical 1980s horror setting.) While we learn later in the film we are somewhere in the Detroit area, there is an eerie resemblance between one of the house locations to Michael Meyer's house in Halloween as well.
4. The Character Dynamics
It seems Hollywood's favorite age group to mix with horrible monsters and ruthless murderers is age 15-–20 (or somewhere within adolescence.) Every 1980s horror film previously mentioned places the main characters (young, inexperienced teens) in some sort of horrendous peril, created by some monstrous killer. As they struggle throughout the duration of the film, trying to find ways to get rid of the monster, things just never really seem to work out.
Like in 1980s horror, characters are slowly knocked out one by one by the demon. As the demon is passed along by means of sexual intercourse, this draws parallels to 1980s horror tropes. Granted, to get rid of Freddy Krueger you weren't supposed to have sex with the Hollywood teen heartthrob, but that seemed to happen a lot in 80s horror films. Seeing that all the characters in those type of movies were horny kids, it would make sense that It Follows paid homage to this trope by making it a critical part of the story.
It Follows truly embodies it's 1980s vibes through many different homages and references to its elders. Even though the film never really does give us a definite time period in which we are viewing, this movie is perfect for anyone needing a considerable dose of 1980s horror with a modern-day, artistic twist.