Sundance Review: It Follows (2014)

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The newest graduate from the school of mumblecore horror is David Robert Mitchell‘s It Follows which blends the low-key drama of the likes of The Innkeepers with the gut-punching shocks and unrelenting tension and nostalgia of The Guest.

After a strange sexual encounter, Jay (Maika Monroe) finds herself pursued by a supernatural force only visible to her. This relentless force is ever-changing in its human image and is willing to follow Jay continually until it takes her life or the curse is passed on.

The concept of being followed is a fear that immediately strikes a primal nerve with audiences. When It Follows adds the element of anonymity to the force in question, it makes for a relentless and masterfully unnerving watch that forces audiences to examine the people that surround them in everyday life. Using this excruciatingly suspenseful, paranoia-infused concept, Mitchell presents us with an abundance of nerve-shredding set-pieces from harrowing home-break ins (featuring one of the most chilling villain reveals in recent memory) to surprise beach attacks.

This cleverly directed picture forces you to examine each of its many wide-shots – scanning the surrounding areas for any source of terror. Mitchell amazingly manages to make the concept of someone simply walking towards the camera truly terrifying with an immediate frantic fear. With a variety of camera trickery that plays with viewer perspective, Mitchell crafts a watch loaded with continual unease and produces a nervous anticipation amongst viewers as we await the next shocking unveil. The visual design of It Follows is packed with a nostalgia towards the classic horror film where abandoned suburban streets echo the desolate unease of John Carpenter’s Halloween locale, Haddonfield. This nostalgia also carries on into its synth-heavy soundtrack and crushing sound design.

Despite the unrelenting tension in the horror-centric sequences, the film’s dramatic backbone feels too low-key and occasionally contrived. Dramatic scenes feel tired and can appear lethargic when following the highly-strung genre scenes. An unwanted subplot concerning Jay’s best friend’s feelings towards her eats away at far too much narrative time, feeling contrived and sucking the energy from the proceedings – well, until the next terrifying unveil. A cluttered conclusion set in an abandoned swimming pool also proves to be another rare misfire for Mitchell – whilst also feeling hypocritical towards already established narrative rules. Fortunately a wide-eyed energy from Maika Monroe keeps things engaging for the most-part.

It Follows is an undeniably impressive contemporary horror that in its best moments will have audiences pinned to their chairs in fear. The tension is so remarkably executed, and the scares so impassionately bold that the weaker dramatic moments are entirely forgivable.


Genre: Horror DistributorIcon Film Distribution (UK) Festival: Sundance 2015 Rating: 15 Running Time: 100 minutes Release Date: 27th February (UK) Director: David Robert Mitchell Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary