Editor’s Note: This review has been republished. It originally posted with the rest of our reviews and coverage at Fantastic Fest this past September.
The darling hit of the 2014 Fantastic Fest, the overly pensive and highly original stalker film, It Follows, is sure to pick up fans wherever it screens. In an effort to stay progressive, and put a one-of-a-kind stamp on the horror genre, David Robert Mitchell actually gives us a story that feels somewhat like a throwback. The last time we were at the Fest, writer Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson told us that the genre had been dumbed down to mindless teen slashers. Well, they set out to help fight that trend with the nightmare fuel that was Sinister, and now Mitchell seems to have jumped on the same band wagon. Really, the genre is glad to have him.
It Follows is wholly exciting, chilling and a dangerous time at the cinema. Unlike most slasher films, Mitchell keeps thing slow with little need to hit the gas. He certainly revels in the unsettling calm before the storm. Even when the storm does break, it’s still about the anticipation of this one-of-a-kind creepy film heavy. That is something the film has down to a science along with its remarkable simple premise. Further it is the execution that makes this so distinctive.
It Follows doesn’t have a remarkably high body count (maybe five or six), and they’re far less gruesome than you would imagine in a “horror” film, but viewers are rewarded seeing set-ups pay off. It’s Hitchcockian in that aspect, for sure. Plus, if you know what you’re getting into, this exercise in tension is old school terror with a new age twist to it is a blast.
The word ambivalent has been used to describe Mitchell’s film, and that kind of nails it. The focus on the story is almost from an outsider’s point of view as evidenced from the opening shot alone. Much like Ti West’s The House of the Devil or his The Innkeepers, It Follows is about mood which far outweighs the shock value. The restraint that the film takes, when you might expect a go-for-the-throat approach, is admirable. Sometimes, that restraint comes across boring, yet it’s surprising how effective anticipation can be when watching these kids cope with the events when they have little to no understanding, weapons, or even a plan of defense.
After the disturbing intro, and subsequent haunting exposition, it’s all Run away! *rest* Run away! *rest*, rinse and repeat. But It Follows also leaves room for common sense which is as refreshing as its premise. It also has a clever and abundantly obvious social commentary that may or may not be as fulfilling as the mood, but in short, It Follows is the impressive sum of mostly unremarkable parts. Well, save for Maika Monroe that is. She does a lot with her role, and with titles like this and The Guest on her resume, it’s gonna be interesting to see what she does next.
David Robert Mitchell’s story is more than surprising, and may not have the legs out of the festival circuit that it had in it, but it’ll make you think twice about a number of issues. It’s that overall lingering feeling of dread, and provoked thoughts that far outweigh the scares in its runtime.