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Will Ashton

‘It Follows’ proves horror isn’t all cheap thrills

Horror movies have been pretty bad recently. Will Ashton writes about why “It Follows” was the best horror movie in his recent memory.

What impressed me the most about It Follows was its use of timing. All too often in horror films today, filmmakers forgo pacing for cheap “jump scares,” and it’s pathetic. To excel in horror is to relish in the terror of the moment, to grip your audience to fear the unknown and reap the benefits when you unleash the creeps of the night or the creature from the depths.

This is something David Robert Mitchell’s new film understands beautifully, and also through the aid of his determined young cast, piercing cinematography from Mike Gioulakis and a killer score from Disasterpeace. It Follows, however, is just one recent horror flick to shine.

For the past few years, features such as The Babadook, The Conjuring and You’re Next use similar skillsets to their advantage. Better yet, if reports are to be believed, recently released or upcoming horror films such as The Witch, Honeymoon and Goodnight Mommy also use these tricks to their advantage. Just when all seemed lost, these films prove how — when in the right hands and given the right care — horror can still be creepy and fun again. As a result, the genre is slowly but surely revitalized.

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Take that, Ouija or The Purge: Anarchy. Not everything comes down to loud sound effects and jumpy editing. It doesn’t take an awful lot to make an exceptional horror film, but treating your audience with respect is a good start. A lot of horror fans are smart, and even though they know better, they sometimes still enjoy silliness and cheap effects in order to have a fun hour-and-a-half. But filmmakers have to trust their audience and take their time when it comes to crafting good thrills.

While I prefer my horror films with their tongues firmly in their cheeks and coated with lots of over-the-top gore goodness, to truly succeeded in horror — either silly or not — means a strict dedication to your tale. Whether it’s absolutely bonkers, like Evil Dead 2, or completely serious, like the aforementioned The Conjuring, or even something in the middle, like Drag Me to Hell, the success of your thriller presides in how one commits to his or her tale and tone.

You can even be both serious and goofy and make it work — just like The Cabin in the Woods — if you respect the build-up to your tone shift and gradually make the adjustment. This can easily go south — looking at you, Tusk — but persistence and studious craftsmanship can smooth it out.

And ultimately, that’s what’s at the core of a good horror film: craftsmanship. For as impressive as it is, It Follows is not without its faults. Its thin plot grows repetitive and then a little too pigheaded as it reaches its final act, and some parts of the dialogue is certainly better than others. But because Mitchell focused on his tale and didn’t forget what he wanted to do, he succeeded. As such, more filmmakers seem aware of this, but not all. It all comes down to trust. If you care about your story, no matter how weird or wacky it is, it’ll find its audience. If you don’t, that’s something to scream about.


Will Ashton is a senior studying journalism and a staff writer for Email him at or find him on Twitter at @thewillofash.

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