2014 - R - 100 Mins.
|Director: David Robert Mitchell|
|Producer: David Robert Mitchell|
|Written By: David Robert Mitchell|
|Starring: Make Monroe, Lili Sepe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary |
|Review by: David Rolston
|Official Site: itfollowsfilm.com|
Every so often a low-budget independent film appears that generates the type of movie business buzz and excitement reserved for the emergence of a talented new writer/director. "The writer/director" is the holy grail of the film business, because these rare individuals generate ideas and deliver the finished product, and once they become a brand, can be marketed and pre-sold.
You better run, you better hide...
I think of films like "The Evil Dead" from Sam Raimi, "Blood Simple" from the Coen's, "Sex, Lies and Videotape" from Stephen Soderbergh, or "Reservoir Dogs" from Quentin Tarantino. What these films share in common is that their reputation and buzz far exceeded the number of people who actually saw their breakout film, at least in theatrical release.
David Robert Mitchell's 2014 film "It Follows" belongs in this distinguished category. Mitchell's follow up to his 2010 debut "The Myth of the American Sleepover", "It Follows" is an unmitigated success at any budget, that like many of the other films I've included and would include in this list, takes budget and genre limitation and turns these constraints into strategic advantage.
In the digital age, mainstream filmmakers have no practical constraints left in terms of what they can depict visually. "It Follows" like "Reservoir Dogs" before it, did not have that option, being a low budget independent film, so it substitutes copious use of suggestion and narrative omission, and this time honored technique is worth its weight in suspense and an atmosphere of dread.
Just as "Reservoir Dogs" omits the heist around which the rest of the film revolves, "It Follows" omits key scenes that would typically be used to establish the perilous circumstances that its characters must eventually confront. Mitchell's camera follows his actors, in particularly Maika Monroe, in voyeuristic fashion, often lurking behind them as he provides extended opportunities without much in the way of dialogue to convey their confusion and growing apprehension. Rather than show everything explicitly, he challenges the audience to fill in the gaps.
The film making is stylish and assured, mixing up a gumbo of styles, influences and homage into a cinematic soup that works on numerous levels, in a way that's as satisfying to jaded film critics schooled in the last fifty years of cinema as it is for its target audience of teens looking for a date night flick.
There are elements of seminal horror films like John Carpenter's Halloween and the vivid dream state of Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street", but I was also reminded of David Lynch's masterpiece "Blue Velvet." There's something about "It Follows" that reminds me of Lynch in the way it's intensely focused on the private moments of its young stars, who are literally depicted at the height of their youth and beauty, and shares the same hallucinogenic romanticism.
Which is not to say that "It Follows" doesn't reflect the Zeitgeist of its characters. There is dating. There are "boyfriends" but there are also sisters, and neighbors and friends who in the past may have been one or the other, which is a phenomenon that reflects the way the current generation of young people relate to each other. There is pre-marital sex, which is one of the long running tropes of teen horror, but there is also unrequited love, ennui and a sense of desperation and fatalism.
What elevates "It Follows" from other notable but otherwise more pedestrian entries in the Horror genre is it's brilliantly constructed plot. Mitchell creates a scenario with predicaments that are believable, and then ingeniously constructs some of the most suspenseful sequences in years. His plot is impervious to many of the traps of the genre, while at the same time, he consistently takes the film in unexpected directions that are hugely satisfying. The script also offers subtext that hints at possible interpretations and themes far more profound than all but the very best genre films in history.
One suspects that "It Follows" is the breakthrough film for an exciting film maker well schooled in the films of the aging auteurs of the last century, but it is also a riveting horror film decidedly of the moment that demonstrates just how often less can be substantially more.