Cannes: It Follows review

Horror films attract a very dedicated fan base and filmmakers that work in the genre are often a part of that fandom themselves. As a result, they can be subject to strong influences that sometimes lead to disappointing results. When influenced by such greats as John Carpenter, Dario Argento or George Romero, for example, the films of fans can often come across as incredibly derivative. It’s rather hard to compete with the likes of Halloween, Profondo Rosso or Dawn of the Dead, and so tributes and homages will often look like mere imitations of ‘the real thing.’

With It Follows, David Robert Mitchell has accomplished the rare feat of wearing his influences on his sleeve but still creating something new. There are many familiar tropes in this film, but they’ve all been given such a wonderfully applied lick of fresh paint that the movie has ended up feeling nothing but original.

While I will now be careful to talk only about early scenes in It Follows it will be necessary to reveal some of the plot if I’m going to discuss the film in a meaningful way. At the same time, I know that an audience will definitely enjoy It Follows more if they watch it cold and knowing as little as possible. If you’d rather experience It Follows that way, stop reading now and simply let me assure you, it’s very good.

Mitchell opens the film with a chase as a young girl runs for her life from an unseen stalker. It’s a scene that only makes sense later as more plot points are revealed, but we do soon learn that she has been cursed and is running from something only she can see. It’s something that will hound her, she will never feel safe, and she will always be looking over her shoulder.

Later on, the film’s protagonist Jay (Maika Monroe) is hit with the same curse. The audience shares her point of view, and it’s then that we find out what quite what’s going on with the invisible ‘it.’

The stalker in question, and of the title, is not a Michael Myers type, a zombie or some horrific entity but just a person. Who it is in particular keeps changing, however, with the only constant being that ‘It’ will always walk slowly and deliberately towards their prey.

This makes for some wonderfully suspenseful sequences. Director David Robert Mitchell knows exactly where to place the camera, framing his scenes in order to create the utmost uncertainty for the viewer. We are, like Jay, being forced into constant vigilance, always on the lookout for where ‘It’ could be. And yet Mitchell still manages to find a number of ways to surprise and scare us. He also sneaks in a few red herrings – just the right amount, in my opinion, to provide some humorous respite.

It Follows‘ key success lies in the way that Mitchell has created suspense, twisting the knife expertly and knowing just when, very occasionally, he should drive in the blade all the way to the hilt. Sometimes the effect does lean very heavily on the score, which is admittedly a gorgeous maelstrom,  when the visuals would most often have done the work themselves, and more subtly too.

Nonetheless, It Follows is one of the smartest and most well-played horror films I’ve seen in some time, at least since Willow Creek last summer, and it should go down a treat with both more casual fans and the hardcore of seen-it-all horror obsessives.

It Follows will be released in the UK on February 27th, 2015. Here are the French, English and then American teaser trailers for the film, and they’re very different from one another.