Since It Follows started making the festival rounds last year, it's gained a reputation as both a successful throwback to the, lurking, stalking, atmospheric horror of early John Carpenter, among other 70s and early 80s horror films. About a sexually transmitted curses, demons, and death cults, David Robert Mitchell's sophomore feature has inspired and hopefully earned hyperbole from critics and fans alike, all of whom are surely tired of the phoned-in gore and jump-scares of contemporary horror.
Unfortunately, like a regular civilian, I've got to wait until we open It Follows on Wednesday to have a look for myself. But because that's unacceptable, I did my best to get a sneak peek – or whatever the aural version of a sneak peek is. For the past week, I've been "previewing" It Follows by listening to the soundtrack with headphones on, as loud as I can get. As a result, the jeepers have been effectively creeped out of me.
The composer, Disasterpeace (aka Rich Vreeland), made a name for himself doing video game scores. In particular, the big deal Fez was backed by his nostalgic-sounding 8bit dreaminess. It Follows nods a few times to the chiptune, flute-y quest music of 80s video games. The score does get dreamy sometimes, but with that twist of dread that evokes the tone of David Lynch. Sharp ears will also pick up on similarities to the trilling conversational noises of moments in The Shining as well as the stabbing strings of Psycho. The other comparison that doesn't need to be subtle is to the simple, devious melodies of John Carpenter, who scores his own films. But while there are comparisons to be made, the music of It Follows is it's own beast.
Indeed, for how synth-heavy the score is, there's a sweaty, hairy organic-ness to Disasterpeace's contribution. The sounds move from pounding to drill-like shrillness, the distortion of the synth almost taking on a growl. At times the tones drop so low and guttural that they achieve this physical feeling of rumbling wind that I've only experienced in real life from a struggling woofer. There are sounds on this album that I could only get around to describing as wind chimes made of meat and bone. At times, a sustained tone becomes discomforting, and I'm reminded of Eraserhead, with its industrial soundscape feel that actually serves to illicit nervousness and a bit of nausea, and a gut-deep dread when played through a quality presence. What this boils down to is that Disasterpeace's soundtrack here is presented as a both a presenter and a place, describing something that both pursues you and surrounds you all at once.
If you want to disrupt your life for a spell, I recommend walking around with the album on in headphones for a week. You won't know what you're looking for, but you'll be keeping your eyes peeled for something.
I keep thinking of some far-back interview with John Carpenter in which he confesses that Halloween didn't work as a horror movie until he added the score. Then all the tumblers clicked and the movie became an instant classic. This doesn't disparage the movie, but speaks to how far you can go with little. The individual, almost laconic elements of Halloween aren't astounding, but they combine in such a way that their sum becomes enormous. Again, I haven't seen It Follows yet, but from what I've read about it, it similarly cooks up a complicated dish with just a few ingredients. What many massive, mainstream, CGI, orchestrally scored horror moves miss is the fact that it doesn't take much to scare someone. All it takes is the perfect amount of little things.
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