Fantastic Fest Review: 'It Follows' Sure To Hit with the Horror Crowd
by Jeremy Kirk
September 25, 2014
No one expected writer/director David Robert Mitchell to follow his beloved, indie hit The Myth of the American Sleepover with a horror film. Even fewer expected it to be one of the most terrifying cautionary tales to come down the horror mountain in a long, long while. Regardless that's what we get with It Follows, because that's precisely what it is, a spine-chilling yet simple story that knows exactly how to get under the viewer's skin. Mitchell knocks the slew of horror tropes he could have easily fed us to the side, and It Follows ends up being a unique film that just may do more for young-adult abstinence than a sex ed class.
Maika Monroe - also notable at Fantastic Fest in The Guest - stars as Jay, a young woman who's about to have her first, sexual experience with a new beau. Unfortunately, this guy is carrying with him a sexually transmitted…curse, for lack of a better word. After only one night together - Only 10 minutes, really, but it's what happens in those 10 minutes that counts - Jay learns she's being followed by a sadistic entity, one who perpetually stalks after her, one who can only be seen by the cursed, and one who won't turn its sights on anyone else until Jay has the opportunity to pass it on. You thought chain emails were annoying.
Taking the writing and director duties once again, Mitchell lets his fright flag fly in It Follows, showing both an admiration for the horror genre as well as an understanding of what works, what doesn't, and what needs to be shaken up. The streets of suburban Detroit, where the film takes place, resemble the quiet neighborhoods of Halloween's Haddonfield, Illinois. The curse vaguely resembles that found in Ringu or The Ring. Even the entity itself, taking the form of everyday human beings going for a casual stroll, moves like a classic, Romero zombie but whose presence - or potential in its presence - loaded with as much suspense as watching the ocean waters in Jaws.
But don't let the derivative nature of certain aspects in It Follows fool you. This movie is its own beast with Mitchell's execution in pacing and scene-structure keeping the viewer ever on their toes. It's when the entity appears to our heroine that It Follows delivers its unique brand of shock, quiet and unassuming as those shocks may be. Mitchell pack every scene with the ideal amount of ambiguity, sometimes never even revealing whether or not that person you're watching in the background can be trusted or not. It really shows a skilled eye for horror in how well Mitchell times his film's scares. He uses every trick in the horror handbook; jump-scares, atmosphere, and tension alike to the best of their respective abilities.
All the while the tension ratchets up around the film's protagonist, and Monroe, subdued as she is for most of the film, garners a superb performance from beginning to end. She's never the badass heroine who's gonna teach this ghost or demon or succubus a thing or two, though the film does a nice job misleading you through that whole journey. Nor is she ever the helpless victim just sitting around scream-crying and waiting for a Bruce Campbell-type to burst through the door with a chainsaw. The secondary parts are equally genuine, though they all could have been developed quite a bit more.
It Follows proves that David Robert Mitchell is as skilled in the horror genre as he was with the coming-of-age drama. Aided by an abnormal musical score by video game music composer Rich Vreeland AKA Disasterpeace that is as haunting as it is unexpected, It Follows is a horror tale that is sure to resonate with 2014's promiscuous youth. But, more important than that, the film is downright scary as hell. Though its budget shows a time or two - especially in the more special-effecty moments - and you wish Mitchell had taken the overall scenario in slightly different directions, It Follows is a horror hit whose freshness, simplicity, and style are sure to make it hit extremely well with today's jaded horror crowd.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 8 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk