Director|Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto
100min Horror|Fantasy US
The backwaters of Detroit, Michigan can be a pretty desolate place in late Autumn – particularly so as pictured in this indie horror outing that will have you screaming in the aisles, and running for cover.
Writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s 2010 debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, saw the stirrings of adolescence peeping from the shyness of childhood in a group of Illinois teens. Here, he takes the subject into murkier waters where imminent danger scratches the edges of emotional security for a young woman after a sexual encounter turns deadly. Eerie and unsettling, this low-budget weirdity combines the best in horror techniques with an otherworldliness making it uncannily suspenseful for both sexes as a succubus morphs into an incubus, ensuring that no viewer escapes unscathed.
A breakout indie hit at Cannes 2014, IT FOLLOWS became the talking point amongst critics until its much awaited release earlier this year. A gripping slow-burn plotline, sensitively-nuanced performances and ethereal visuals (combined with haunting voyeuristic tracking shots) make this a modern classic of the horror genre, for cineastes and mainstream audiences alike, and marks Mitchell out as a talent to be reckoned with. His skill in counterposing long moments of silence with an atmospheric score by Richard Vreeland further provokes a pavlovian response to the terror.
In a typical US suburban neighbourhood (grass verges, detached houses) the film opens as a scantily-clad girl, Jay (Maika Monroe), escapes from a house and drives off in a car. Alone on a beach, she makes a tearful phone-call to her father – the kind that precedes imminent disaster. Flash back to a dimly-lit bedroom: Jay is seen provocatively dressing and later leaving a Detroit theatre hand in hand with Hugh (Jake Weary) who she later has car-sex with before disaster strikes. It emerges that a sexually-transmitted supernatural force hexes the post-coital victim with a zombie-like being that pursues them, slowly but vehemently, until it either catches them, or, they pass on the curse to their next lay. Days go by with nothing happening until suddenly the being appears from nowhere, inexorably moving towards us, leaving the victim permanently on ‘red alert'; nerves shredded and mental composure perpetually derailed as they are caught in a stranglehold of morose terror. So effective is this technique, that we are forced perpetually to scan each frame for the emergence of another semi-naked notional nutter on the war path.
Meanwhile, a love triangle plays out between Jay and ‘boy next door’ Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and her long term admirer and school mate Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who both feel so strongly for Jay that they are prepared to sleep with her to rid her from the dreaded curse. Along with the rest of the gang (Kelly and Yara) they gradually empathise with Jay’s fear, although they are unable to see the zombie apparitions. Keeping her company during the wee small hours, they eventually formulate an inventive plan to oppose the forces of evil. And it’s in a ghastly funereal-style public swimming baths, on the seamy side of town, that the nightmarish finale finally unfolds.
Maika Monroe gives a soulfully subdued turn here as Jay: the blood drained from her fresh-faced beauty by angst-ridden watchfulness, she acquires an edgy sexual allure that doesn’t sabotage the central storyline but merely adds subtle texture. The support of the other nearly new-comers feels authentically gloomy and doleful yet never upstages the tone of unremitting anxiety that pervades throughout, occasionally pricked by downright terror. This is a stylish horror outing and one of the best you’ll see this year. MT
NOW OUT ON DVD