Wednesday, 18 February 2015


Early word of mouth suggests that It Follows is poised to be the biggest and best horror film of the year. It has drawn a significant amount of praise and, with its release date looming in just over a week‘s time, anticipation levels are skyhigh.
I was lucky enough to be able to catch a preview screening of the movie with director David Robert Mitchell and stars Maika Monroe and Daniel Zovatto in attendance at London‘s BFI Southbank cinema. Could the reality possibly match the overwhelming hype?
Read on…


Dir: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Jake Weary, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here but read on at your own risk.

Jay (Monroe) is a pretty, fancy-free girl in her late teens who lives with her cute and fun sister (Kelly) and rarely present mother. She has a new young man in her life, Hugh (Weary) who, despite an odd outburst on a date at the cinema, is handsome, sweet and everything she is looking for in a boy.
After finally sleeping together one evening, Jay's life is turned upside down when Hugh suddenly drugs her and takes her to abandoned building, ties her to a wheelchair and explains the truth behind his bizarre behaviour — he has become desperate to escape a relentless supernatural entity. He has been pursued by a merciless killing machine, invisible to all but those who have been cursed by the being that stalks its prey at a slow, steady walking pace but never rests, never gives up and never ever shows any mercy. And now, by sleeping with Jay, he has passed the curse on to her.
At first she doesn't believe his outlandish tale, but after witnessing the entity in the shape of a naked, bloodied woman stalking inexorably towards them, her nerves are shaken.
After Hugh dumps her in the street outside her home, Jay's friends rush to her side — including funny bookish Yara (Luccardi), handsome rogue Greg (Zovatto) and Paul (Gilchrist), who has clearly carried a torch for Jay for some time.
What follows is a constant game of cat and mouse as Jay and her friends try to stay one step ahead of the murderous being as it takes a number of forms, some familiar to Jay, some just otherworldly and terrifying.
What is It and can it be defeated? And if not, will Jay pass on the curse to save herself?

THE BEST BITS: One of It Follows' biggest strengths is easily the wonderfully original premise. First we had STIs, now it seems we have our first STC — sexually transmitted curse.
The slow, relentless stalking shapeshifter is a very creepy antagonist, which (combined with the nature in which the curse is passed on) makes It Follows one of the most unique and fresh feeling horror films in some years.
The story, written by director Mitchell, was based on a recurring bad dream he had during his childhood, and that best sums up the mood of the movie — it feels like a waking nightmare. This is heightened by the bizarre world in which the film takes place. It is written as if it is not of any particular era, with clunky analogue TVs showing nothing but old black and white movies and cars from years gone by, yet the characters have mobile phones and Yara uses an e-reader that doesn't even exist yet. It makes the world seem familiar, yet strange enough that it keeps the audience wrong-footed throughout.
The fantastic writing is continued through the characterisation — these are a group of realistic and, for the most-part, likeable youngsters and they respond to the danger in which Jay finds herself in ways that (unlike the vast majority of horror flicks) won't have you smacking your forehead and screaming at the screen. It's nice to see that the group are quick to get Jay's back and form a protective circle around her. In a film in which very few adults are shown (and even fewer are much help) Jay's friends fill the void.
The characterisation is aided immensely by the talented young cast. Sepe and Luccardi are both adorable, making their's characters you can't help but root for, while Zovatto walks the fine-line between cocky and charming like a pro. He's going to go a long way.
Gilchrist is given plenty to do, at times breaking the unbearable tension with some fine comic delivery, at others provoking real sympathy for his unrequited love. At first seeming dorkish, when the shit really hits the fan he is able to transform Paul into a real heroic character. Excellent work.
Of course the star here is the wonderful Monroe. Pretty and charismatic, she is also a wonderful actress, she is able to convey so much in just a look or gesture. There are points in the film where whole internal monologues play out on her face, her internal struggle and thought process readable through the subtle shifts in her expression. That's not to say that her line-delivery isn't perfect too, because she is never anything less than believable and engaging. With this role and the one in Adam Wingard's The Guest, Miss Monroe has built a hell of a lot of credibility with genre fans. 
I mentioned Gilchrist's character's humour breaking the tension and that mounting feeling of dread throughout the movie is something that needs further discussion. Much like the monstrous Follower, the oppressive and paranoid atmosphere is unrelenting from the point that the Jay contracts the STC.
This is due in no small part to the fantastic vision of Mitchell and his director of photography Michael Gioulakis. They use a significant number of wide shots, leaving vast expanses of open space around our characters which grants us the ability to see The Follower loom into view in the background, stalking ever closer to potential victims. It's a clever technique in which to keep the audience permanently on edge. This also allows us to see lots of the Detroit setting, whether it be the leafy, mundane and safe suburbs or the run-down, dangerous city itself, giving the film even more character. Mitchell's direction and vision is wonderful, the wide shots cranking up the feeling of isolation, yet there are some close shots that have drawn well-deserved comparisons to John Carpenter. The use of blocking in some scenes is amazing, really heightening the claustrophobia of the scenes in which characters find themselves trapped indoors. These include one pant-fillingly terrifying scene in Jay's bedroom, matched only by the heart-stopping Cat People-esque swimming pool scene. 
Finally, the Carpenter likenesses continue in Disasterpeace's awesome and distinctive electronic score. This is a proper horror score that is able to escalate from cool and melodic into overwhelmingly discordant and disturbing. There are scenes on this movie that are turned into the stuff of nightmares due to the awesomely creepy soundtrack. This is a score that will become an undoubted genre classic, I guarantee it.

THE WORST BITS: Okay, this is a tough one to criticise, but I did have a couple of minor qualms. First, while I praised the soundtrack (quite rightly) for its awesome Carpenter vibe, there were a couple of occasions during the film when it actually felt a little intrusive. They were few and far between, but there was a couple of scenes in which the intensity of the music seemed to escalate quicker than the events onscreen, leading to an almost melodramatic feel. I'm sure plenty of other viewers will disagree with me but to me it was a bit much at times.
Second, while I loved the originality of the plot, I did feel that Mitchell et al could have explored the mythos a little more. I don't need (nor do I want) a full and detailed explanation for everything in the movie — far from it, I prefer some mystery to my horror — but it feels that more could have been done with the haunting premise. Perhaps some ideas have been kept in reserve for a potential sequel, as Mitchell has said he has more ideas for this story, whether it be with these characters or a new group. It certainly doesn't ruin the movie as its singular focus on a relatively straight forward plot line and comparatively small core of characters only makes it a more focused and intense scary experience. I think it says a lot about how much I dug this world that I wanted more of it!
Finally the ending. I cannot, nor will I spoil the film and discuss this in depth, as quite frankly I don't think that's fair. However I will acknowledge that I think some people will express frustration at the conclusion of It Follows. I disagree, quite strongly with this stance — some of you may wish to stop reading here, but I feel that given everything we are shown and told about the nature of the curse, plus the strong focus on character and relationships, this is probably the only ending we could have. There is resolution, yes, just not necessarily the resolution that many of you may expect. I praise Mitchell for his storytelling and for delivering a truly memorable and logical conclusion. 

VERDICT: It Follows has probably been a little damaged by the insane levels of hype it has received. I was expecting a brand new genre classic, the likes of Rosemary's Baby, The Haunting or Romero's Night of the Living Dead. It doesn't quite hit those frankly unrealistic levels of expectation, but it is still a quite excellent horror movie. It feels fantastically unique, like some kind of strange genre mashup in which the characters from a John Hughes-style Breakfast Club-esque coming of age dramedy find themselves cursed a la Takashi Shimizu's Ju On by way of John Carpenter's grimy early classics. Awesomely shot and acted, with a kickass story and soundtrack, this is an easy recommendation, if only to see for yourself what all the fuss is about!
The film hits UK screens on 27th February, so while you wait, check out the film’s official Facebook page and give it a Like. Support our genre's big hitters, it's a surefire way to ensure that we will get more imaginative and interesting horror efforts in the days ahead.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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