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It Follows – film review

April 23, 2015

IT FOLLOWS

Intelligent and genuinely creepy horror makes a comeback.

Reviewed on Monday 20th April 2015

it follows maika monroe

Written & directed by David Robert Mitchell. Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto and Olivia Luccardi. Running time: 100 mins.

After a one night stand with a boy she hardly knows, nineteen year old Jay Height finds herself stalked relentlessly by an unstoppable supernatural entity determined     to kill her. Jay’s only chance at salvation is to sleep with another boy and pass on     the curse.

This terrific new supernatural horror film It Follows is a beautifully made dread-filled homage to classic horror of the late 70s and 80s (with a dash of Drag Me To Hell thrown in for good measure). Incredibly creepy, clever and intense – without relying too much on overt gore and violence – David Robert Mitchell’s assured direction is evident from the hugely impressive opening shot. His utilization of the 2:35:1 aspect ratio adds a great deal to the general unease; as his use of such a wide frame really does give us a sense that the antagonist (in its various guises) could indeed appear anywhere in the background without the foreground character’s knowledge (a visual device also used to great effect in John Carpenter’s original Halloween). There are many moments scattered throughout where we find ourselves wanting to scream at the characters to ‘look behind you!’ And the decaying Detroit locales only add to the unsettling creepiness; very much recalling the city as depicted in the Detroit-set Only Lovers Left Alive from last year. Actually, the world portrayed in It Follows also has a very similar dream-like quality to that particular film; along with the timeless quality of another film; Donnie Darko.

Adding to the otherworldliness of this seemingly alternate universe is the fact that although the setting appears to be present day (with the kid’s vernacular giving this impression) – the lack of personal computers or flat screen TVs (and predominance of cathode ray screens) seems to indicate this is taking place in a pre-internet era. Although cell phones do exist in this world, we never see anyone with their noses perpetually in their phones (a fact which only struck me later). As a result, these teens are continually engaged with one another and interacting in a way which is a real throwback to how teens were portrayed in movies from the eighties. And thanks to Mitchell’s smart writing and the nuanced performances of the relatively young cast, these are all nicely-drawn characters we can instantly warm to. The decision to have Jay’s friends believe her predicament and close ranks around her to help her overcome the bind she finds herself in is also a really nice touch. And the fact that parents are distinctly absent from this world (only appearing in the background or heard off-screen) also focuses our attention on the kids themselves. We really do get a sense these characters genuinely care about one another. And unlike many college kids portrayed in horror films of recent times, these really are a likeable and endearing bunch of characters who, refreshingly, we actually give a damn about.

it follows maika monroe and lili sepe

Maika Monroe in the lead (previously featured in last year’s retro thriller The Guest) conveys just the right combination of vulnerability, courage and smarts (much like Laurie Strode in Halloween or Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street) – making her character one of the more memorable horror film heroines of recent times.

As seen previously in The Ring and Sam Raimi’s hugely underrated Drag Me To Hell, It Follows employs an ever-increasing sense of dread which is profoundly affecting. And much like the lack of exposition on offer to do with Scarlett Johansson’s character in Under the Skin from last year, the origin of the entity in this film is never explained in any depth; giving it a sense that this is nothing less than a primal and terrifying force of nature which cannot be reasoned with … it just … IS. On a side note, I hear a sequel may well be on the cards – so I really do hope the entity’s origin remains unexplained in any future installments. Sadly though it seems modern auds these days want everything explained and tend not to understand – it is our hard-wired and primal fear of the unknown which ultimately makes the supernatural         so terrifying.

And I can’t finish without mentioning the terrific retro 80s synth score by Rich Vreeland aka Disasterpeace; also extremely effective in escalating tension while clearly inspired by the music of John Carpenter – who seems to have had a major influence on this new generation of independant horror filmmakers.

Featuring assured direction and likeable characters we really do care about, It Follows is without a doubt one of best examples of intelligent, slow burn creeping horror of recent years and comes highly recommended.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Palace-Nova Eastend Cinemas, Adelaide, April 20th 2015.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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