Excerpt from our brand new issue: Kyle Meikle on It Follows
(original artwork by Sophia Foster-Dimino)
“I was an anxious kid. I hated the dark. Sometimes, when I was playing in my parents’ basement, my mom or dad would turn the lights out, not realizing that I was down there (I was a quiet kid, too). The panic would set in and I’d sprint to the top of the stairs, convinced that some malevolent force was following half a step behind me.So sleepovers were a fraught proposition. The dark of my parents’ house was bad enough; the dark of another family’s was even worse. A friend would invite me to stay over. We’d eat pizza, play Sonic for hours on end, watch a movie. It’d come time to go to bed and I’d make a valiant effort, lying awake for an hour or two, steeling myself. Then, when things got truly quiet, too quiet, when not only my friend was asleep but also his parents, I’d find a phone on some faraway wall, call my mom and dad, and whisper for them to pick me up. Every sleepover involved the same dilemma: Whose parents should I disturb first, my friend’s or my own? Sooner or later (sometimes as late as two a.m.), I ended up disturbing everyone.
Once I was older, though, my fear of the dark not only faded, it reversed. In high school, I flinched if the basement lights flickered on, since it meant that my mom or dad might happen upon my girlfriend and me in flagrante delicto. I actively sought out darkness—not only in my parents’ basement, but in the movie theaters where I spent many of my waking hours and in the kinds of movies I’d see in those theaters: horror, more often than not. After seeing Scream while I was in middle school, I realized that if I experienced my anxiety in concentrated, ninety-minute bursts, it tended to level out in between. Disturbing or being disturbed wasn’t a dilemma but a decision. I chose to be disturbed.
Of course, the more horror movies you see, the more their horrors tend to level out, too. An adolescence spent in the thrall of specters and serial killers left me somewhat numbed to the effects of the genre later on. Just as those scenes of me nodding off in the backseat of my dad’s Ford Festiva as he drove me home from a friend’s house in the small hours of the morning have taken on the soft focus of nostalgia, so too have the nights when I couldn’t fall asleep after watching Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (in my childhood bedroom) or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (in a dorm room while I was studying abroad) or Session 9 (at my first apartment in Delaware). There’s a certain heart to all that darkness.
So if and when a film like David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows is cited as “the scariest and best-engineered American horror movie of recent years” (Andrew O’Hehir, Salon)—I listen. I listen carefully. I’d still rather feel anxious in a drafty, darkened movie theater than anywhere else. I still want to be disturbed. I still want another sleepless night.
I saw It Follows. And then, a week later, I saw it again.”