“It Follows” is quickly becoming the first surprise indie hit of 2015

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One of the best parts of my job is when I can watch a film or a performance that I’ve championed actually catch on with audiences. This year, a slightly unexpected one has occurred in the form of horror movie It Follows. Even though it had played the Cannes Film Festival last year and made a few other fest stops, it was always seemingly going to be just an independent fright flick that got good reviews and then faded. At best, it could duplicate what The Babadook (a film I think is far inferior to It Follows, by the by) did in 2014. Then, out of nowhere, it began to get some of 2015’s best reviews, followed by two weeks of lighting the indie/limited release box office on fire. Now, as it goes into theaters nationwide today on over 1200 screens, It Follows is a certified indie hit, one that’s as surprisingly as it is delightful to witness.

As I wrote on the site a few weeks ago when I raved about the film, “It Follows is a hybrid character study/coming of age tale/horror film. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, it tells the story of a 19 year old girl named Jay (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe) who sees a sexual encounter lead to terror. After sleeping with her new boyfriend for the first time, he basically kidnaps her in order to safely inform her of what he’s passed on to her. Until they had sex, he was plagued by something monstrous following him slowly wherever he went. It started when he slept with someone on a one night stand, and now that he’s given it to her, he’s free from its clutches. Jay is warned that if it catches you, you die. Worse yet, it’ll take the form of people you know in order to get close to you. After he lets her go and runs off, she groups up with her friends, neighbor, and sister to figure out if there’s any way to survive. Monroe is the undisputed star, but the cast has some solid supporting players, including Keir Gilchrist. Besides Monroe, you’ll be blown away by Mitchell’s work, especially when it pairs with the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis and the score from Rich Vreeland.” I just wanted to make sure that I reiterated what the film was about…just in case you weren’t in the know yet.

Two weeks ago, the movie opened in a mere four theaters (two in New York and two in Los Angeles, I believe), and took in a stunning $160,089, which made for a sizzling per theater average of $40,022. That made it the #30 title at the box office overall, which is the sort of numbers a Best Picture hopeful shoots for when they begin their limited run, not an indie horror film. Last week, things continued when it jumped up to 32 screens and cracked the top 20 overall, coming in at 19. It Follows grossed another $344,874, which made for a per theater average of $10,777. That’s a tremendously good expansion, take it from me folks.

Now, it’s hitting wide in the aforementioned 1200+ theaters and could make as much as $4 or $5 million this weekend. Those numbers don’t jump out at you, but keep in mind that this wasn’t expected to do anything in theaters. The money was always assumed to be coming from VOD and the home audience. In a way, this is just a bonus that’s helping to craft this movie’s bonafides in case it does manage to get some sort of precursor love at the end of 2015. I know I’ll be pulling for it to get something.

Regardless of how you slice it, It Follows has clearly been a real success story. Originally meant to have just a cursory theatrical run before a VOD debut that would function as its true release, it’s instead become a word of mouth hit. The size may be small and the potential may ultimately be limited, but this is always good to see during the first part of the year. I can’t wait to see how it does. For all we know, it could once again exceed expectations and over perform with more mainstream audiences…

Be sure not to miss It Follows in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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