NZIFF Review - It Follows
A terrifically old school suspenseful horror from the director of The Myth of the American Sleepover, you wonder how the likes of It Follows has not been done before.
Following a young bunch once again, director David Robert Mitchell is the story of Maika Monroe's Jay, who sleeps with her new boyfriend Hugh.
Only to be then chloroformed when there should be cuddling afterwards.
When she awakens, she's told by Hugh that an unseen something will now start following her and she has to avoid it - but that the only way to permanently get out of this pursuit is to sleep with someone else and pass the curse on.
But if the person who's been affected with the curse is killed, the creature stalks its original victim.
With a premise like that, you'd expect a somewhat trashy movie as the teens sleep their way around, promising plenty of loose sex and even looser morals.
But what actually transpires is a terrifically well-delivered, technically taut horror that makes great fist of an ominous soundtrack, perfect locations and slow seeping shots to create an atmosphere of utter dread within. At least one reveal of the thing following Jay is utterly terrifying and creatively executed, thanks to a combination of perfect timing, soundtrack and plausibility as well as tapping into one of those most horrific fears with you since the dawn of time.
The cast's fairly impressive too - once you get your head around the fact that in many ways, this is an old school horror where potential victims don't exactly make the wisest decisions. But that's not to dismiss it as retro or tacky in any way shape or form.
The relationship between Jay and her sister, as well as her first boyfriend Paul (who's happy to help relieve her of the curse) is excellently handled and the growing sense of dread is brilliantly executed throughout. Once the paranoia sets in the psychological effects are easy to understand, eminently watchable and smartly dished out. Even Jay's initial reticence to pass it on (one character remarks it should be easy for her as she's a girl) gives way to a sickening sense of inevitability for her own sanity.
Monroe is the right mix of naive and love-struck at the start, but once the horror starts to set in, her gradual descent into full-on terror and near breakdown is a compelling, if horrifying one.
Sure, you could argue this is a large metaphor for STDs and teen sex, but it's more than that. Mitchell's executed a classic horror that incorporates the terror of a faceless stalker. Wisely choosing to ignore the need for explanation for what exactly is going on, how it all began (perhaps fertile ground for another movie) and concentrating simply on delivering dread and terror, It Follows' MO is atmosphere and successful jump frights, deftly transcribed to the screen that channel a primal simple fear - something's coming for you and you can't escape it...
It Follows more than delivers on those - and don't be surprised if after seeing this, you walk home checking over your shoulder a couple of times....