Be warned: There will be many uses of the words “it” and “follows” in this review.
The days of the horror movies were in their prime during the 1970s to early 80s, with auteurs like John Carpenter, Wes Craven and David Cronenberg ruling it with a combined iron fist. The lasting of the influence they’ve had on new directors in the genre is mostly scattershot today. But there are some that have done proper justice and have paid tribute to their most noted works.
In comes David Robert Mitchell, best known for his cult coming-of-age film “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” with “It Follows,” a horror film touted as one of the best horror films of the 21st century which pays tribute to those directors’ aesthetics. Though the buzz is big, it certainly deserves it as “It Follows” does what last year’s “The Babadook” did in resurrecting real horror’s old-fashioned scares and psychological paranoia.
The film opens with a bang where a girl runs out of her house in terror from an unseen entity that’s apparently following her. She hides out on a beach, but is found brutally murdered the following morning. Days later, 19 year-old Jay has sex with her new boyfriend, but soon afterwards he chloroforms and ties her up where he tells her that their sex has allowed him to pass “it” to her, which is a curse of seeing an entity that can only seen by the person with “it”. The entity can take on the appearance of any person, and follows the person at walking pace to eventually kill them. If killed, each person that previously had “it” will be killed one by one.
The STD warning commentary of “It Follows” methodically blends with the real-world human fears of paranoia and stalking. The invisible aspect of the entity is terrifying because nobody is safe from being imitated, regardless if they are a friend or random stranger. Director David Robert Mitchell translates these fears to perfection on the big screen, both with the sharp wide-angle cinematography that increases the scope of each setting, in addition to making great use of the background in the frame for when the entity appears.
Best known for her role in last year’s excellent retro genre mash-up thriller “The Guest,” Maika Monroe firmly establishes herself as a premiere “Scream Queen” with her phenomenal lead performance as Jay. Her portrayal of a late teenager losing her innocence from the dread of life after physical intimacy gone wrong is nothing short of compelling and the emotional transformation she undergoes is aptly varied.
While the supporting cast that plays Jay’s friends aren’t as developed as her character is, the actors that play them still do a respectable job. Keir Gilchrist is solid as Jay’s longtime friend Paul, who along with the rest of her friends are trying their best to help her despite not being able to see “it”. Daniel Zovatto also plays well as Greg, a neighbor that joins the group to assist Jay in making the entity disappear.
Technicality however is where this movie stands out the most. In addition to its lush wide-angle shooting style, the unnerving atmosphere exudes that of an early 1980s John Carpenter film. In addition, there are genius prop anachronisms of old television sets and radios used in the present-day Detroit setting that further reflect its influence from the aforementioned decade.
The build-up of the scares are meticulously crafted as most are old school in the process where they rely on having something or someone following the heroine, which builds intensity for the bigger payoff. There are some scenes that cut a little too quick in the midst of increasing suspense, but they’re made up for by other sequences where Mitchell goes all-out in the scares department.
Finally, it’s impossible to not mention the excellently eerie score by Disasterpeace. The synthesized sounds range from euphoria to heart-pounding suspense, all of which are a feast to the ears for how they flow.
Even for the well-made movie “It Follows” is, the wide release its gotten is both strong and an Achilles Heel for the mainstream audience. The scares are subtle compared to those of wide release horror films, and the pacing is a tad slower. The fans of retro horror films from multiple decades ago will relish its aesthetics, but hopefully there is a middle ground that will be found for both crowds to equally appreciate the film.
For the die-hard horror film fan I am, “It Follows” is a profound breath of fresh air. Mitchell’s influences are obvious, but his ability to subvert them into something entirely original is a feat enough of itself.
RECOMMENDED: “It Follows” is a stout horror film that shows the genre’s old school techniques are still alive and thriving today.