It Follows has been at the centre of discussion since the Cannes Film Festival last year. David Robert Mitchell’s (Myth of the American Sleepover) film screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival last July and then at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to positive buzz and critical acclaim. It’s expansion from very limited screens to 1,000+ in the US has made it the independent hit of 2015 to date, and for good reason. It is an intelligent, accomplished feat of claustrophobic horror filmmaking with the capacity to transcend the cinema environment, get under a viewer’s skin and continue to terrify long after the credits.
The film tells the story of pretty 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), who finds herself plagued by strange visions and a pursuing supernatural force after a seemingly innocent sexual confrontation. She learns from her boyfriend, the transmitter, that this mysterious entity will kill her if it catches her, unless she can pass it on to someone else before that happens. If she succeeds and that person is killed, she will become the target again. Jay enlists her sister and friends to help her escape the ever-present horror and find a way to rid herself from it forever.
It Follows is a creepy teen ghost-stalker thriller that builds and impressively sustains a nightmarish, stressful mood throughout, while managing to inject a thought-provoking sexual-transmission anxiety subtext. One could interpret the entity as a metaphor for STD’s and how the repercussions of a care-free sexual encounter can continue to haunt you. But, Mitchell has said that his major focus was to place Jay in a situation where she is never sure whether she is awake or dreaming. Take a regular situation and inject something that is amiss. That is something that everyone can relate to, and a deep nightmare of this sort can be very unnerving. The entity acts differently to people around it and can adopt any human form, but can be spotted if one knows what to look for. As an audience member you are aligned with Jay’s POV and are initially unsure of what to look for. But once acquainted you find yourself always on the look out.
Mitchell’s direction is excellent, and with the ominous threat always set to burst into the consciousness of the characters (and us), the widescreen lensing is very effective. It couldn’t have ended any better either, and the throwback giallo score (think of Goblin and their work for Argento on films like Deep Red or Tenebre) is unforgettable.
There are a few cheap-ish jump scares, and an effects-heavy sequence that went a tad amiss, but the simplicity of the ‘threat’ works very much in its favor, and the performances from the youngsters are all very good. I saw this in Toronto last year, and it trumped out The Babadook for my top horror film of 2014. It is very exciting to see it get a theatrical release in Australia, even if it is only a few screens, and I will be back for more punishment.
By Andrew Buckle
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer(s): David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe.
Runtime: 100 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: April 16, 2015 (limited)