It Follows (****)
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe and Daniel Zovatto
(Glasgow Film Festival screening, Grosvenor cinema, 21/02/2015)
DIRECTOR David Robert Mitchell said when he set out to make It Follows he wanted to make something ‘beautiful and disturbing’. The film mightn’t be as disturbing as the director would’ve hoped for, but it’s still a beautifully shot, atmospheric horror feature that pays homage to iconic American horror movies from the 1970s and 1980s, without ever feeling like a cynical pastiche.
Right from the offset as Disasterpiece’s synthy score blares out, Mitchell’s film evokes memories of John Carpenter, placing his characters in a world where Halloween happens every day, danger and terror never far away. There’s also a clear nod to Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street with a central heroine and a largely teenage cast stalked by a supernatural menace, whilst their parents are nowhere to be seen.
Playing out like Hideo Nakata’s Ringu mixed with a hint American Pie the film’s premise sees promiscuous teenagers hunted by a shape-shifting, paranormal presence that can only they can see. So often within the horror genre the only way for someone to survive throughout the movie is by not having sex, but here that’s exactly what they’ve got to do; like an STD they must pass the attention of this ‘slow but incredibly smart’ creature onto someone else, before it finally catches up with them.
Much like Pepé Le Pew, this creature simply walks in a straight line as it slowly stalks its prey, taking various guises throughout the feature; sometimes we see it, other times we don’t and sometimes Mitchell knowingly throws in a few red herrings for the viewers who are playing detective. Its victims can run and hide, or drive as far away as they can, but it only buys them time, because just like Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills, sooner or later it will find them.
Maika Monroe’s character Jay evokes memories of Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street and Laurie from Halloween, an innocent girl thrown into a terrifying situation. After a seemingly innocent sexual encounter with her new boyfriend, Jay becomes the creature’s latest target. She becomes plagued by increasingly terrifying visions and realises she must decide whether to pass it on, or with the help of her friends try and stop it monster altogether.The young actress put’s in a solid performance throughout the feature as the film’s central heroine, convincing viewers that it isn’t as they’d think for an attractive, nineteen-year-old blonde girl to simply have sex.
Like Adam Wingard’s You’re Next and The Guest, which also featured Monroe, Mitchell’s film isn’t trying to be ‘ironic’ or ‘post-modern’ , nor is it an outright gorefest either; instead it feels like a wonderfully authentic throwback to horror movies pre Wes Craven’s Scream. This blood-soaked love letter to the work of John Carpenter exists in a world where Sydney Prescott doesn’t exist, Michael Myers is just off-camera and Randy Meeks hasn’t given us the rules for surviving a horror movie
The film does loose itself slightly in the over-the-top, slightly overcooked finale, that just felt a little off-kilter with the slow, atmospheric pacing of its first half, but it definitely earns itself enough good-will to see it across the finishing lines. It Follows mightn’t be as unsettling a watch as Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, but just like that film it will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
After watching this movie viewers of a certain age will certainly be hoking out their old copies of Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, knowing that in years to come It Follows will fully deserve its place alongside them within their DVD collection.
(It Follows will be screening at the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast from Friday 27 February until Thursday 5 March)