by Ian Long
David Robert Mitchell's 2014 film "It Follows" appealed to an audience well beyond 'genre' fans (see the endless blog posts and Youtube clips interpreting the story as evidence).
But why did this particular film raise so much interest? And what can writers working in Horror (and other genres) learn from it?
The story centres on a young woman (Jay) and her group of friends, who are menaced by a relentless, murderous, shape-shifting threat.
In terms of genre, then, it's essentially a "Teen Slasher" film.
In these films, groups of young people are menaced by monsters, dying one by one in horrific circumstances. Characterisation is fairly thin, and the first to go is often a sexually active girl (the films tend to conform to a specific moral code).
Let's look at what opened this film up to a wider audience.
What does this tell us about It Follows?
It's useful to think of films in terms of style and tone as well as genre, and these elements suggest that, as well as Horror, It Follows is an Arthouse film.
And maybe we're more ready to accept 'fantasy' storylines when they're presented in these terms?
Let The Right One In - a precursor
It Follows took its cue from Swedish arthouse vampire film Let The Right One In, acknowledging the debt by staging its climax in a swimming-pool, like the earlier film.
In both cases, the filmmakers took a long, hard look at their genre and asked which elements need to remain, and which have become stale conventions which should be ditched.
All filmmakers need to do something similar.
Conclusion - the Joys of Arthouse
Arthouse is cheap, intelligent, critically attractive, and can punch far above its weight in terms of international acclaim.
It actively embraces 'foreign' (non-English language) films, opening the door to recent Arthouse Horrors like A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Troll Hunter, Let The Right One In, etc.
Giving your story an Arthouse twist should make you think through its ingredients in a very rigorous way.
SPOILER ALERT: and, despite having early sex scene, Jay isn't singled out for narrative punishment - she's still alive at the end of the film.
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