It Follows (2015)

IT FOLLOWS (2015)

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It Follows Banner

Writer/Director: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto

“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”

I can’t get IT FOLLOWS out of my head. It’s a finely crafted horror that creeps under the skin with its high concept narrative hook serving as allegory. Ambiguous enough to inspire speculation without sacrificing narrative cohesion IT FOLLOWS is more of a sustained atmospheric suspense of dread than outright terrifying fear frightener. It’s a campfire yarn that exploits the power of suggestion by manipulating, embracing and subverting the tropes of the genre.

It Follows Maika Monroe

Where I went in completely blind aside from the positive buzz of lasts years Fantastic Fest and some enthusiastic    recommendations from friends I feel that now that the central premise is splattered all over the web I can reveal the core  concept without being labeled a spoiler. (Treat this as your warning to avoid the rest of this paragraph if you would  prefer to remain completely in the dark) So here it is, a sexually transmitted specter stalks an infected teen and with the  aid of her friends must survive its unstoppable malevolent power. This shape-shifting, waking succubus/incubus  terminator advances the timeless thematic collision of sex and death that’s been the crux of numerous horror legends  and also a staple of teen slashers birthed with Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN.

It’s Carpenter’s seminal work along with a slew of other non-teen horror classics like INVASION OF THE BODY  SNATCHERS and CAT PEOPLE that subtly make their stylistic presence known as the tale progresses. A huge  component of the film’s success is the creeptastic musical score from former video game contributor Rich  Vreeland under the name Disasterpeace which also harkens back to the master of horror. It’s this soundtrack in unison  with Mike Gioulakis’ (JOHN DIES AT THE END) manipulatively composed cinematography that forms a relentless atmosphere of impending doom and consequence. (Listen to the soundtrack at the bottom of the page)

The predatory camera is always in motion. Wide lens shots framed to unnerve through forced perspective cunningly place out of focus, side bar and it-follows-cannes-2014-4background movement to draw the eye and raise the pulse. It’s nothing new, but Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell obviously understands the tricks of the trade and uses them all effectively. Right from the unbroken opening shot through an idyllic suburban neighborhood as the tranquility is abruptly shattered by a petrified underwear and heels clad young woman fleeing from an unseen attacker I was immediately in the filmmakers clutches. (See the Anatomy of a scene video below with commentary from Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell to witness it for yourself)

Another element of storytelling effectively employed is a world largely devoid of adult influence. These teens already navigating the identity confusions we all face growing up confront this murderous monster largely isolated from their elder’s wisdom. This adds an element of futility and importantly means when their largely ineffectual attempts to end the curse border on silly it’s actually tangible instead of frustrating.

Despite a very conscious effort to operate in a non specific time period there is a loving reverence for the 70’s and 80’s both in technique and content that had me almost feeling nostalgic. VHS tapes are placed beside modern e-reader technology (purposefully designed to appear like a birth control pill) and a cell phone that appears early on is never seen again, the effect is disorientating but never distracting.

Cleverly, although the cat is let out of the bag early in the running time when the “rules” are established it’s revealed via a somewhat unreliable narrator, Hugh (Jake Weary). The lack of concrete laws creates a conceptual quicksand where the viewer must process every clue just as the characters in peril onscreen.

it-follows-beach-sceneThe largely unknown cast adds another dimension to the off-center movie reality rather than one distinctly ours. In the lead, the nubile Marika Monroe fresh off of last year’s inevitable cult classic THE GUEST really anchors the whole thing with a strong performance. Vulnerable enough to leave doubt of end game survival while still strong willed enough to make her plight one we care about. As her younger sister Lile, Kelly Height brings out the sibling conflict of caring while simultaneously being judgmental of her older sister’s attractive but naive maturity. Keir Gilchrist captures the character of the geeky, lovelorn Paul who encapsulates many of the scripts themes of sexual awakening, desire and awkwardness. As the charismatic loner Greg, Daniel Zovatto reminded me of Judd Nelson’s Bender from THE BREAKFAST CLUB through a filter of post-modernism.

It’s these modern sensibilities that largely inform why IT FOLLOWS works on more than just a surface level without being overtly, self-consciously meta. Formulated for deeper analysis the STD/AIDS commentary is only the entrance to a rabbit hole for those who wish to obsess on the films subconscious intent like the horrific twisting and inverting of sexual abuse and victimization. This residual power makes it hard to objectively criticize the debatable flaws that emerged during the screening.

I began this review by stating that I haven’t been able to get this film out of my head and that isn’t just due to the experience while sitting in the darkened cinema. It’s that while in motion the story is intriguing enough to immerse you in each reveal but it’s not until you are alone that you begin to analyze just why it manages to permeate…Listening to its unnerving, moody soundtrack on a loop ever since has probably also played a part in why it clings to me like some skin disease ever since too.

Watch the spoiler heavy, THING fonted trailer for it FOLLOWS trailer

 

IT FOLLOWS – The opening unbroken shot with commentary from Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell

 

Listen to the unnerving, downright terrifying IT FOLLOWS Soundtrack

 

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