Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: It Follows (2015; Rated R)

*NOTE: This review nixes most story details in order to minimize spoilers and consequently maximize viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

David Robert Mitchell's stalker film It Follows is a deliberately crafted, disturbingly potent pastiche of suburban horror. Don't let the reviews fool you, it isn't the scariest film in years nor does it break any new ground for the genre, but what it does is effectively make the familiar feel grossly unnerving in a way that will linger with you long after the lights flicker on.

From the opening shot, It Follows establishes a menacing sense of nostalgia: Midwestern suburbia, fall. A high heel studded teenager bolts out of her house and down the street, chased by an unknown entity nobody else can see. Nearby adults look on, dumbfounded by this girl as she runs around. Sound familiar? That's because It Follows owes a huge debt of its bone-chilling success to the classic suburban horror flicks of the 70s and 80s: A Nightmare On Elm Street among the most obvious.

Like those movies, and most horror movies since, It Follows centers itself around a posy of young, hormone-enraged teenagers growing up in the middle-class bowls of America. Unlike most horror movies though, each of the kids have just enough personality and sense to make your emotional investment worthwhile once It starts to follow.

At the film's heart is a jaded love story starring Paul, played timidly by Keir Gilchrist, who you may or may not recognize from 2010's It's Kind of a Funny Story; and Jay, portrayed by the up-and-coming Maika Monroe, of last year's The Guest, starring Dan Stevens. These two share an awkward, though endearing long-lasting bond that grounds this otherwise Twilight Zone of a story. Credit to Mitchell and these fine, young actors for realizing a painfully truthful interpretation of the complex teenage love life.

As endearing as their apprehensive relationship may be, this film is about Jay and Maika Monroe's beautifully authentic performance. Not since Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween has a young lead given such a subtle, sincere portrayal in a horror movie. And although Curtis and Monroe play two different characters from much different eras, the retro influence on Mitchell's film is omnipresent.

This includes the evocative, eerie synth riffs that compose much of the dread-inducing score by Disasterpeace. The soundtrack here is crucial not only to the effectiveness of the frights, but to the identity of the film in general; reminiscent of the likes of Halloween or Psycho, composed by John Carpenter and Bernard Hermann respectively. Fans of the genre should definitely check this music out.

From the slow moving camera pans to its lead-footed antagonist, It Follows is deliberately crafted in the vein of an old school slow burn. Rather than rely on booming jump scares, the film draws its tension from Jay's vulnerability. She's not safe anywhere. Even if she gets in a car and drives far away, It is always walking straight for her. This realization slowly kills Jay's soul, which in turn will kill yours. It's all part of this film's brilliant uneasiness, which sets in during the prologue and steadily perturbs towards a hauntingly pensive conclusion.

If you can, see this movie in theaters. You'll thank me afterwards.

Grade: A

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