It Follows review from Fantastic Fest. A Sexually Transmitted Haunting
There’s few things as satisfying as a fresh and exciting new horror film. It’s rare these days to find one with a story that stands on its own, one that honors its influences without falling back on post-modern meta genre commentary, and one that genuinely gives you the creeps. With David Robert Mitchell‘s new indie horror flick, It Follows, we find such a rarity, with well-placed, jump-from-your-seat scares and bonafide unsettling chills that sink in and stay with you long after the credits have ended.
So what is It Follows? Think Hideo Nakata‘s Ringu, but with chlamydia instead of a VHS tape. Fresh-faced teens lose their innocence in more ways than one, passing an evil entity from one person to the next through intercourse. Want to survive? You’ll have to find someone else to give it to.
After a mysterious opening scene, we’re introduced to Jay (Maika Monroe), our protagonist and soon to be latest victim of the ghostly affliction. The boy who infects her is kind enough to give warning of what’s to come, laying down the logic to which the film adheres from that point on. Joined by her sister and some friends, Jay flees from the entity while also looking for a way to save herself.
The effectiveness of the cast is due in part to their unfamiliar faces. The only person I recognized was Keir Gilchrist of The United States of Tara fame. You believe in their youth, and without the patina of young Hollywood starlets, their actions and reactions are authentic. I won’t go so far as to say they all deliver flawless performances, but they’re consistent and provide the anchor needed to make the tension work.
With this movie, Mitchell returns to Detroit, the setting of his first feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover, and the city itself becomes a character; decrepit, quiet, and downright eerie. Featuring voyeuristic camerawork that would earn praise from John Carpenter and Brian De Palma, and an uncomfortable but effective score that invokes Vangelis, you can tell from the first frame this film is aiming higher than the rest.
Like the soundtrack, the styling of the film is unusual and effective in so many ways. Many of the shots have a 6 o’clock in the morning look to them, blue light, dew touched, fresh and clear. And the era of the film has a modern feel, but the props would suggest otherwise. Filled with old cars, landlines and analogue television sets, all playing classic horror and sci-fi films, there’s a dreamlike quality to it all, leaving you questioning everything.
The mixing of horror and sex could’ve easily fallen into the realm of camp, especially since it involves teenagers, but fortunately Mitchell never allows that to happen. The terror that Jay feels is palpable from beginning to end. While the entity remains the source of conflict, Jay is now a participant in the evil, faced with the dilemma of passing it onto someone else or spending the rest of her presumably short life waiting for the entity to take her. But even survival leaves troubling implications for her future, with the possibility that it might never be over. Despite these themes, the film does not come off as preachy or anti-sex. It’s not a cautionary tale, it’s just a well-told scary story that’ll leave you wanting more.
This might be controversial, but It Follows truly rises above nearly all recent horror films. Dare I say it’s my favorite horror film since 2007’s [REC]? It just might be. A few repeat viewings will determine that, but, for now, fresh from the first viewing, I’m giddy and eager to say – It Delivers.