The 400-Word-Review: It Follows
By Sean Collier
March 31, 2015
There are limitations to the horror genre. At some level, fear on film can only be done so many ways; by 2015, even cutting-edge filmmakers are reinvigorating out-of-vogue styles rather than inventing.
To an extent, that’s true of It Follows, the sophomore effort from writer/director David Robert Mitchell; there are pieces of David Lynch in the film’s atmosphere and shots in the style of frequent John Carpenter cinematographer Dean Cundey. The difference in this case is that those influences are not merely employed, but masterfully brandished in service of the best American horror film in years — if not decades.
Little can be said about the plot of It Follows without ruining the fun. I can recap the film’s opening sequence: a terrified teenage girl bursts out of her suburban home, fleeing an unseen threat. As neighbors and family members ask if anything’s the matter, she unconvincingly begs off; she frantically jumps into a car and drives off into the night. Hours later, she sits with her back to the ocean; she calls her parents to tell them she loves them and apologize.
In the morning, we see her mangled body motionless on the beach.
The same supernatural force eventually stalks Jay (Maika Monroe), a distant Hollywood beauty with dreams of romance. Again, I won’t reveal the details, but Jay winds up on the run with a quartet of friends — younger sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), hipster buddy Yara (Olivia Luccardi), bad-boy Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and hopeless boy-next-door Paul (Keir Gilchrist). The tension ebbs, but never dissipates.
The story — a layered narrative with endlessly-debatable subtext — is a wholly original concept, buoyed by camerawork that says what the script cannot. Mitchell points cinematographer Mike Gioulakis’ camera at sun-drenched streets and lifeless forests, while a timelessly haunting score by Rich Vreeland underlines the constant danger lurking at the edges of the frame.
And, most vitally, It Follows is clenched-fist terrifying. As the film rolls, you’ll be clutching at your armrests, frantic at the tension; after you walk out of the theater, you’ll be checking over your shoulder for weeks.
Among recent — meaning the last 20 years or so — horror films, only Let the Right One In comes to mind as a possible contender to It Follows. This mind-bending masterpiece should not only be on the radar of genre fans; it is, by all measures, an excellent film.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark