Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sundance ’15: It Follows

Finally, the abstinence education movement has the horror film it has always needed. When a suburban neighborhood bombshell finally sleeps with her newest boyfriend, she would have been much more fortunate to be infected with an STD. Instead, she picks up some sort of supernatural stalker. She can run or she can try to pass it on to someone else, but there will be no hiding from the malevolent entity in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Everyone on the block is devoted to Jay, including her less glamorous younger sister, her dweebish elementary school boyfriend Paul, and Greg, the high school bad boy living next door to him. Ill-advisedly, she has decided to take the plunge in the mysterious Hugh’s back seat. At first, it is all lovey dovey, but after a spot of chloroform, she wakes up bound to a wheelchair. At this point, he gives her the bad news, pointing it out, in the spectral flesh.

An uncanny entity will now stalk her. It can take the form of any person, but only she and the formerly infected can see it. It can only walk and it is suspensefully slow, but it never stops until it catches it prey. Hugh does not want that to happen to her, because it would then follow the chain back to him again. Naturally, Jay and her friends assume it was all part of some sick game devised by the jerk calling himself Hugh, but a few unsettling incidents soon convince them otherwise.

It Follows is a distinctly creepy film due to the nature of its bogeyman, who often impersonates close family members, just to be cruel. Other times it assumes some truly ghoulish guises, but it could be anyone purposefully walking towards Jay. Yet, Mitchell also takes the time to develop his characters and establish their relationships. Even the location of their respective houses is important to his narrative.

Granted, Adam Wingard’s The Guest went south about halfway through, but it and It Follows really herald Maika Monroe as the up-and-coming “It-Girl” of genre cinema. She does the scream queen stuff well enough, but also forges believable chemistry with her assorted costars. Keir Gilchrist (a bit of a cold fish in Dark Summer) is particularly effective in this respect as the torch-carrying Paul.

Okay, so their big third act plan does not make much sense, but the movie essentially acknowledges as much, by having it go spectacularly awry. You would hardly expect it from his previous film, The Myth of the American Sleepover, but Mitchell’s horror film mechanics are unfailingly sure-footed, while Mike Gioulakis’ massively moody cinematography and the eerie electronic soundtrack concocted by Richard Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpiece, give it the look and ambiance of vintage 1980 horror, in the best sense. Highly recommended for genre fans, It Follows screens again today (1/25) and Friday (1/30) in Park City and Saturday (1/31) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance.