Director David Robert Mitchell surprised audiences with It Follows, a horror film that’s gone on to have a modern day cult following. It’s not surprising, either, considering the film’s creepy tone and use of suspense. But with such an interesting concept, one in which people are followed by an entity that works much like an STD, many might be wondering what the inspiration for It Follows is. As it turns out, it actually has nothing to do with sex.
As revealed in an interview with IndieWire, David Robert Mitchell noted that his childhood nightmares were a big part of his inspiration. And it appears that they were pretty accurate to how the entity worked in the film.
Here’s what he said:
“The basic idea came from a recurring nightmare that I had when I was a kid in which I was followed by a monster that looked like different people. And only I could see it. And it was very slow and it was always walking toward me. In the dream I could get away from it easily or sort of easily. I could come into a room, climb out of a window, run down an alley, or go into the street. It wasn’t about it being able to overtake me, it was the feeling of dread and anxiety knowing that something is always coming for you.”
While that explains a lot of the monster elements in the film, there’s still the matter of the film’s unique aesthetic. There are plenty of callbacks to the 1980’s and other analogue eras in regards to technology and pop culture. Here’s what Mitchell had to say about the inspiration for that in It Follows while speaking with AV Club:
“There are production design elements from the ’50s on up to modern day. A lot of it is from the ’70s and ’80s. That e-reader cell phone—or “shell phone”—you’re talking about is not a real device. It’s a ’60s shell compact that we turned into a cell phone e-reader. So I wanted modern things, but if you show a specific smartphone now, it dates it. It’s too real for the movie. It would bother me anyway. So we made one up. And all of that is really just to create the effect of a dream—to place it outside of time, and to make people wonder about where they are. Those are things that I think happen to us when we have a dream.”
Ultimately, he chose those aesthetics because they made the film feel much more dreamlike. This falls in line with his other statement about how his childhood dreams influenced the plot. While it does seem to get attention for having a nightmarish entity that works much like a real-world STD, that isn’t the entire basis of the movie. There are plenty of other inspirations that can be found throughout, and it’s certainly resulted in one of the more surreal modern day horror films.