David Robert Mitchell’s superb indie horror It Follows has made a splash at festivals all over the world and is finally hitting the UK on Friday. The film stars The Guest‘s Maika Monroe as Jay, who is given the curse of being followed by a relentless, unstoppable presence. If it catches her, she’s dead.
We spoke to Monroe about what makes It Follows unique, her favourite horror movies and how she feels about the “Scream Queen” label.
What drew you to It Follows?
Well, I had read the script and was, to be honest, a little confused as to how this would come across on film and into a movie. So I put myself on tape, sent it in and David gave me a call after watching the tape and explained where this idea came from and it was this nightmare as a kid, this consistent thing following him and he wanted to turn it into a movie. And I thought that was really cool; any time a project is really close to somebody I find it more interesting.
It is this strange blend of ’80s horror while being set in the present day…
To be honest the first time I saw it was at Cannes, and I really had no idea that it was going to come together like it did. I didn’t know the music, I had a little bit of an idea because of the wardrobe that it was kind of like this timeless, kind of confused in this in between land, but I really had no idea once it all came together, the kind of ’80s slasher vibe. So I was a bit surprised.
What was it about the character of Jay that appealed to you?
I thought it was very interesting, the character’s journey, she starts off a very normal girl and then thrown into this insane situation and kind of comes out as the hero which probably would never have happened if these events didn’t occur. To see how someone deals with something and watching her story and the emotional side of it, I saw it as a bit of a challenge. And especially portraying this kind of character as very real in such a crazy situation, and I found intrigue in that.
Yeah! It’s so funny, people always ask “Can you explain the film?” and I don’t even really know where to begin because it kind of crosses genres. It’s so complicated to explain but there’s something so…reading the script, you don’t read something like that often. Something so different and unique and yet in a genre that can be, I find some horror films very similar, you know, and when you watch It Follows it challenges things and it’s got this elegance to it and this simplicity that is, I think, refreshing.
Jay obviously gets put through a lot during the course of the film; was it a demanding shoot?
Oh yes! It was so exhausting, by the end of it I think I slept for like three days straight. I was so tired, there was a lot of night shoots. Every day I was either screaming, crying, running, smashing into walls, it was very physical, very physically intense and also mentally. And it was the third project in a row that I was filming, I think I’d been filming for then seven months on three different projects and this was the third and so I almost felt like I was going a bit crazy myself! Which maybe helped, but it was probably one of the hardest, most intense shoots that I’ve done.
Oh yeah, he was so specific down to every detail and there was a lot of scenes that weren’t the most comfortable to shoot, you know. We did all the pool stuff, we were shooting three days in a pool and the pool’s cold and you’re getting yanked down underneath the water and for me, I trust David. And when he’s like “We need to do another take,” I’m like “OK, you know what you want, something wasn’t right so we’re going to do it again.” Which is not always the case with a director. He was a part of wardrobe, a part of the hair, every detail and I like that in a director when they know exactly what they want. It’s a very good thing.
Did you shoot this after The Guest?
Yes, The Guest was before, I self-taped on The Guest for It Follows which is funny, just because it was just by chance that these two movies happened next to each other. For me it has to be a really cool and weird horror movie for me to do it because I think there’s so many clichés, I want to keep a distance from that, but these two projects came back to back and I kind of fell in love with both scripts and it just kind of happened and now people are like “You’re the next scream queen!” And I’m like “I don’t know, maybe!” It was fun, they were both really really different experiences but both very cool.
Are you a fan of the horror genre outside of work?
Oh yeah, my dad raised me on The Shining, which was probably one of my favourites and I think it was probably middle school, we’d have sleepovers and rent three horror movies. I remember Nightmare On Elm Street was a huge one that just scared the shit out of me at that age, and there’s something so much fun about just being utterly terrified. So I definitely have a space in my heart for horror movies!
It must be exciting to have been involved in two horror movies in a row that have had such a great reaction.
Yeah, and it’s so cool to see how the projects came together and the response from people and that people are loving these films. And it’s just been a really cool year. I’ve think I’ve gone to nearly every festival this year, either with The Guest or It Follows and it’s so cool because people are so excited about it and that’s why we do this, it’s why I do what I do and I love when people react and they respond to the characters and the film so it’s been pretty surreal to be honest, it’s just so cool. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s amazing.
What are you working on next?
Currently I’m filming The 5th Wave, kind of like Divergent/Hunger Games thing, it’s a young adult novel with a huge fanbase, and we’re shooting in Atlanta right now so it’s a very different feel from the indie movies that I’ve done. First studio film but it’s been very interesting and I get to play a really cool kickass role, so yeah, I’m excited. After I finish shooting this I go back to another indie script that I’m super excited about. Not horror, it’s called The Tribes Of Palos Verdes.