Hot on the coat-tails of surprise Aussie-chiller The Babadook and Adam Wingard’s 80s-throwback The Guest, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows has been making waves amongst the critical public since first premiering at Cannes last year. Promising even more synth-soaked delights than even the days of Carpenter and co., Mitchell’s first foray into horror looks to provide even more of a boost for the ailing genre.
Set within the Amblin-esque suburbs of a unnamed city, It Follows charts the living nightmares of nineteen-year old Jay (Maika Monroe) following a seemingly random sexual encounter she has with a nameless drifter. Now apparently the helpless fodder of a shape-shifting stalker, Jay enlists the help of her sister and some school-friends in an attempt to track down her unknown former beau and crack the case once-and-for-all. But, as expected, the formless creature has other plans, and soon the gang find themselves on the run from an apparently invisible menace.
The key word here is ambiguity. For Mitchell, the most intense fear of all lies within the unknown and It Follows is a true testament to that fact. Straight from its very outset, Mitchell’s film provides little in terms of exposition, building its chase-based narrative and the entire mythology of its central creature through subtle hints and clues as opposed to flat-out reveals. The result is something significantly more dark and twisted than the standard horror template, providing a terrific sense of creeping dread throughout, whilst rarely reverting to cheap jump-scares. The key to achieving such a continuous tone of fear lies largely in the film’s camera-work, with Mitchell opting for insanely long, sweeping mobile takes that both amaze and disorientate at every opportunity. This, twinned with a classically unsettling synth-based score gives Mitchell’s film an incredibly refreshing look and feel, making it something of a memorable entry into an otherwise tired genre.
This is not to say that It Follows is completely without its flaws however. Despite it being key to the film’s overall tone, the ambiguity of Mitchell’s narrative can often feel a little tiresome – the plot barely evolves beyond a series of chases – and although this adds to the film’s small-scale vibe, it ultimately stunts any real growth in jeopardy. The teen cast prove to be something of a mixed-bag, all appearing functional but rarely exceptional, aside from Maika Monroe’s feisty Jay, who leads the charge as equal parts helpless and heroine, despite some messy development in places.
Ultimately though, It Follows manages to do a fairly fantastic job of establishing itself as one of the front-runners in a new breed of retro-focussed horror. Other than some slightly monotonous plotting, it frequently appears dark, unsettling and unpredictable – three elements which combined make for a solid slice of genuinely creepy fun. Horror fans rejoice, the future is bright.
It Follows (2015), directed by David Robert Mitchell, is released in UK cinemas by Icon Film Distribution, Certificate 15.