(US - 2015)
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Bailey Spry, Debbie Williams, Leisa Pulido. (R, 100 mins)
It seems like every other month or so, there's a new indie horror movie being hailed as an Instant Horror Classic. Most recently, the scenesters couldn't shut up about STARRY EYES, which has already been forgotten. There's a lot of hype out there, and while you get an occasional OCULUS, THE GUEST, or THE BABADOOK that lives up to it, there's an awful lot of The Fanboy Who Cried Wolf when it comes it to a lot of these things. Horror is a very fan-friendly genre, and you meet the filmmakers at a horror con or they accept your friend request on Facebook, and that kind of interaction, unheard of in the glory days of, say, John Carpenter or Dario Argento or Wes Craven, tends to cloud the judgment of genre fans. When the usual suspects started shilling for IT FOLLOWS, it seemed like more of the same. But then even non-genre critics and media outlets started singing its praises, with the acclaim extending far beyond the usual insulated sycophancy of convention regulars, Rob Zombie superfans, people who think THE INNKEEPERS is good, and guys who hoard limited edition steelbook re-releases of movies they don't even really like.
THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, a character piece following a group of teenagers over the last weekend of summer. Like SLEEPOVER, IT FOLLOWS was shot in and around Mitchell's hometown of Detroit, a city whose rundown areas and copious standing ruins almost function as another character (indeed, along with Jim Jarmusch's ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, IT FOLLOWS is a present-day Detroit version of all those early '80s time capsule movies that captured places like The Bronx in all its decaying glory). There's a disorienting sense of time and place throughout, with characters using tablets but driving '80s vehicles or watching cheesy sci-fi movies like 1954's KILLERS FROM SPACE on an old tube TV. The characters are smart, likable, and normal. There's no snark or vocal fry. In a way, the world of IT FOLLOWS is one lost in time, the kind of place where all the neighbors know one another. There's nothing about it that definitively states when it takes place (clearly the present day, given some technology), but the jarring signifiers, chiefly Disasterpeace's sublimely synthy, John Carpenter-inspired score, are there to send the message that this is the kind of movie we would've seen 30 years ago. And unlike 99% of what's out there today, we might actually still be talking about IT FOLLOWS 30 years from now. It's been deemed by some to be the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET of its generation, and that's really an apt comparison.
choreography. Given the rules of "It," he's constantly having the camera move around the actors as you nervously observe the background--in a park, for example, when anyone walking in the general direction of Jay could be "It." And when it's not, you exhale, realizing you've been holding your breath in horrific anticipation and dread for the entire sequence. (MILD SPOILER) Mitchell is a master manipulator, often using cast members or extras with similar appearances to the stars and having them essay an incarnation of "It." Nowhere is this better handled than when Jay, Kelly, and their friends Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Greg (Daniel Zovatto), and Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who carries a torch for Jay, flee to Greg's family's cottage: Yara walks towards them in the background and we don't think anything of it because it's Yara. As the characters sit in the sand and talk, Mitchell shows Yara paddling by in the water and saying "You guys should come in!" followed by a cut back to Jay as the now-threatening "It" Yara is headed straight for her, unseen by the others. From that moment on, nothing can be trusted, and you're at Mitchell's mercy. (END SPOILER)