It Follows

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Laura Clifford 
It Follows

Robin Clifford 


Jay's (Maika Monroe, "At Any Price") the girl everyone wants, but she's chosen Hugh (Jake Weary), a guy nobody knows.  That's because Hugh has a secret, a curse that's passed on through sexual intercourse, and Jay's about to learn that "It Follows."

Laura:
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell ("The Myth of the American Sleepover") pulls off a tricky balance with his ingenious response to 80's horror films where teenage sex meant death and monsters walked leafy suburban streets in broad daylight by presenting his original, nightmarish idea via an homage to John Carpenter.

Although we know the film is taking place in the present day because of Mitchell's limited acknowledgement of current technology, the film is steeped in the 80's from its cars to its sinister synth score (Disasterpeace aka Rich Vreeland).  A masterful prologue sets the tone as we view a terrified Annie (Bailey Spry) running from her home in only underwear and heels. She refuses help from a mystified neighbor, then tells her dad she's fine, but after returning home she leaves again, this time driving to a remote beach.  A cut to the next day's dawn gives us a static, shocking visual that let's us know just what is at stake before we're eased back into the normalcy of summer vacation farther down that same street (Annie's address is 1492, the locale a crumbling Detroit, clearly indicating an America in decline).

In a foreshadowing of the film's climax, Jay floats in her backyard above ground pool, spied on from behind the bushes.  'I see you,' she warns, unknowing that in her future those that follow will be seen by her alone.  The pretty girl her younger sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and friends Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and the pining Paul (Keir Gilchrist, "It's Kind of a Funny Story") watch leave happily for her date with Hugh is returned in a far different state.

In line for the movies (a revival house showing of "Charade"), Jay suggests a game of 'trade,' in which each picks out someone in the crowd they wish they could change places with while the other guesses who it might be and why.  When Jay cannot see the 'girl in the yellow dress,' Hugh's guessed inside the theater, he panics, stating that he feels ill and rushes Jay back outside.  After having sex in Hugh's car, Jay's taken by surprise as he knocks her out with a chloroform soaked rag.  When she comes to, she's in an abandoned, run down building tied to a chair so Hugh can explain his predicament - now hers, a bad trade indeed.  She will be followed, relentlessly, by a person who may or may not look like someone she knows, and if she is caught, she will be killed.  The only way to avoid her fate is to pass it on to someone else as Hugh has just passed it on to her.  As he relates his story, a nude woman appears in the distance, slowly walking towards her.

Mitchell's crafted a sharp script where the interpersonal relationships among these teenagers mean everything to their survival.  They and they alone deal with the terror unleashed among them.  It's a claustrophobic world, yet director of photography Michael Gioulakis ("John Dies at the End") persuades us to keep our eyes on the horizon, employing long takes and 360 degree pans.  Mitchell's assembled a fine cast, all creating characters to care about. Monroe, who could be Brittany Murphy's little sister, conveys the confusion and terror of being yanked from the blush of young love into a nightmare.  Gilchrist, so enervated in "Funny Story," is much improved here, a boy wanting manhood while Daniel Zovatto ("Laggies") has the confidence of the good looking guy who's not afraid to be decent as well.  Luccardi provides sharp bursts of character-derived comic relief.

"It Follows" isn't so much horrifying as it is thought provokingly creepy.  Mitchell knows how to unsettle with a modicum of gore.

Grade:  B+

Robin:
Robin's review will be published on opening day, 3/13/2015.
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