Film review: IT FOLLOWS, from ‘Built For Speed’

Combining supernatural scares with a touch of the dark, hypnotic mood of Jonathon Glazer’s Under The Skin, the sinister melancholia of Let The Right One In, the grim suburbia of John Carpenter’s Halloween and the sexualised teen world of Larry Clark’s films, the creepy, atmospheric It Follows manages to connect low budget art house cinema with classic teen horror. Impressively, the film takes a ludicrous premise and manages to transform it into a potent and unnerving horror fable. 

Maika Monroe plays Jay, a young woman who, after having sex with her new boyfriend Jeff  (Jake Weary) finds that she has inherited a curse in which ghoulish but conveniently slow-moving figures appear from nowhere and try to kill her. The only way to expunge the curse is to have sex with someone else and pass the curse onto them. If the ghosts kill the new victim, though, the curse goes right back to the previous living victim.

Despite the silly concept the film works because of the superbly menacing atmosphere and striking visual style writer/director David Robert Mitchell and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis have created.  The grim autumnal look they have fashioned produces a constant sense of unease and their inventive compositions allow for beguiling, eerily attractive shots and cleverly staged pop-up scares.

The film is so impressive to look at it makes us forget that the story is actually pretty thin and that the subtext is a little murky.  Whether the curse is meant to be a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease, for teen guilt and anxiety about sex or fears about growing up and facing adult responsibility and mortality is only hinted at rather than explored in detail.  Also, the morality of passing on the curse to another person isn’t examined in depth.  Still, Mitchell creates such an effective sense of existential dread we don’t worry about the loose ends.

Mitchell is clearly a fan of 1970’s and 80’s horror films and It Follows, with its minimal cgi and scant references to contemporary technology, could have been set any time in the last 40 years. The film’s pulsating synth soundtrack music also could have come straight from a late 70’s John Carpenter film.

Monroe, who has a look and screen presence similar to Chloe Sevigny, is a fine lead creating within the Jay a believable and sympathetic character who is both vulnerable and impressively resilient. Lili Seppe as Jay’s insouciant sister Kelly and Keir Gilchrist as Paul the skinny nerd who pines for Jay, provide fine support.

It may be slow in a few places and is to some extent an exercise in style over substance but that style is so impressive that It Follows is destined to be one of the year’s most memorable films.

Nick’s rating: ****.

Genre: Horror.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): David Robert Mitchell.

Release date: 16th April 2015.

Running time: 100 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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