Monday, April 13, 2015

Now on Netflix: It Follows (2015)

It Follows movie poster
It Follows (2015) - Written and Directed by David Robert Mitchell; Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi.

By Kenny Howell

The phrase "Best horror movie since ______" get bandied about quite a bit, with that blank filling in the greats like Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

However, that phrase rarely rings true. It's usually a ploy for a reviewer to get their name on a movie poster or advertisement.

But I can say, knowing I will probably never get my name on a poster, It Follows is the best horror movie in a long long time. The last horror film I can think of that I was this excited about it after watching it was the John Carpenter classic Halloween, which this film takes a lot of the lessons learned in that one, just like Carpenter took from Hitchcock before him.

Writer-Director David Robert Mitchell gets what makes a good horror movie. He knows that the two scariest things in a horror movie are when the character we see on screen doesn't know that the evil lurks behind them, and when we the viewer don't know where the evil is. Those are the two basic needs for a horror movie. You don't need gore, this film has very little, you just need that overwhelming dread that keeps you writhing in your seat waiting to see what happens.

The basic story of It Follows is there is some sort of entity that is passed through sexual intercourse that will follow you non-stop at a walking pace until you pass it on to someone else. The catch though is that if that person that you pass it on to gets killed by this entity, it comes back to you.

The person we see get infected with this entity is Jay (Maika Monroe), a pretty college blond who has been dating a new guy named Hugh for a few weeks. They decide to take that next step, and after they do, Hugh knocks her out with an ether rag. When she wakes up, she is in an abandoned parking garage tied to a wheelchair, and Hugh tells her what is going to happen to her. This thing is just going to follow her non stop, and Hugh waits for it to show up. Soon after, a naked woman is seen walking slowly directly at Jay, and Hugh gets her out of there and takes her back to her house.

From that point forward, it is constant fear, pressure and anxiety because this thing keeps showing up. You don't know when it's going to come. It could be anybody in Mitchell's frame at any time, and you find yourself constantly scanning each scene, not knowing who or what is It.

Mitchell is putting on a clinic in how to make a horror movie. First, he sets it in fall. The first scene of the film is a suburban street with the leaves auburn and yellow, falling from the trees. Then we see a girl run out of her house away from something that we can't see. The scene is perfect from the setting to the eerie score which slices into your eardrum rhythmically. It is heavy on synthesizers, calling back to the horror films of the 1970s and 1980s that I am sure inspired Mitchell to make this film.

When the score isn't tearing into you, Mitchell uses silence, and enhances every sound in the film, even if it is a bird chirping in the trees or a hand grazing a plant. That silence builds dread as effectively as the slowly walking menace closes in on whoever it is after.

Mitchell also plays with expectations a bit, as roads you think the movie may travel down are flirted with then diverted in another direction. When you think something is taking care of, we find out maybe it's not. It keeps you on your toes, and keeps it from slipping back into usual horror tropes that have polluted the genre for many years.

It Follows is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ****

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