Dir/scr: David Robert Mitchell. US. 2014. 97mins
The Myth of The American Sleepover’s David Robert Mitchell turns to genre for his second feature, and plays the teen horror conventions skillfully – and attractively – in It Follows. Astute and able, It Follows works on the premise that the real threat for teens is actually what their parents always warned them about – sex.
Mitchell clearly signals his maturing talent in this second film, not only as a writer but with his increasingly sophisticated delivery of imagery.
In It Follows, sex – with an infected person, of course – brings on the murderous zombies, and the only way to get rid of them is by passing the parcel, as it were, to another sexual partner. That’s before these lumbering, dripping trolls kill their victim through – yes - sex.
All forms of decay and disease waft their aromas over the groomed suburban landscape that Mitchell has constructed for his Detroit teenagers. It’s late summer/early autumn, and the lush vegetation is about to turn putrid, while this internal plague results in monstrous external manifestations visible only to the infected person. Mitchell pays clear homage to John Carpenter here, particularly in an effective Moroder-ish score. Sound signals of impending peril judder and shake as, unsupervised by adults (of course), the teenagers make their genre-favoured series of dumb choices (fleeing to a cottage in the woods, for example).
It Follows is clever enough to attract wider US and international audiences than just genre fans. Although it may ultimately be too soft for the hard-core horror brigade, Mitchell clearly signals his maturing talent in this second film, not only as a writer but with his increasingly sophisticated delivery of imagery.
Maika Monroe, looking like a young Chloe Sevigny, is the centre of the action in It Follows – she plays Jay, the object of everyone’s desire, so it’s no surprise that the zombies will come for her too. Mitchell starts It Follows with a very effective tracking shot as a hysterical young girl meets a brutal end at the hands of unseen forces, so we already know something is out there in the bushes surrounding Jay’s fragile teenage suburban bliss.
A young girl’s sexual passion of course is sufficiently provocation to unleash all sorts of havoc, and soon they’re coming for her – slowly, but surely, and with grim determination to the point where the choice to try fight them becomes a difficult one. They can appear as friends or relatives or just random decaying, drooling, menacing fiends. The teenagers in this film spend a lot of time looking behind their backs.
There are, of course, special effects in this film, but Mitchell works assuredly with cameraman Michael Gioulakis to create most of his suspense through light, atmosphere, and sound. His neighbourhoods feel like tenacious settlements on the outskirts of something ruined, with the rot advancing as slowly as the zombies. An effective sequence featuring the abandoned Detroit Water Works part is a case in point.
Production companies: Northern Light Films, Animal Kingdom, Two Flints
International sales: Visit Films, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Rebecca Green, Laura D. Smith, David Kaplan, Erik Rommesmo
Screenplay: David Robert Mitchell
Cinematography: Michael Gioulakis
Editor: Julio C. Perez IV
Production designer: Michael T. Perry
Music: Rich Vreeland (Disasterpeace)
Main cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe