Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #451
Number of Views: One
Release Date: May 17, 2014 (Cannes), March 13, 2015 (United States)
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $17,700,000
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Producers: Rebecca Green, Laura D. Smith, David Robert Mitchell, David Kaplan, Erik Rommesmo
Screenplay: David Robert Mitchell
Special Effects: Robert Kurtzman
Cinematography: Mike Gioulakis
Editing: Julio C. Perez IV
Studios: Animal Kingdom, Northern Lights Films, Two Flints
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC, Dimension Films
Stars: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe , Bailey Spry, Leisa Pulido, Debbie Williams, Ruby Harris
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Disasterpeace “Heels”
 Disasterpeace “Title”
Ever had that sensation that you’re being followed? It’s that uneasy moment when you feel as though somebody is taking an interest in your movements, unbeknownst to you. A quick glance about may confirm that your vicinity is clear but still you can’t shake that nagging suspicion that somebody has their beady eye on you. It’s the reason why young attractive women don’t walk down dark alleyways in the dead of night and the same reason why any conspiracy theorists among us really ought to steer clear of Twitter. It’s also one of the most overused scenarios in horror and has been soundly done to death over the years. However, often the most simple ideas turn out to be the very best, and David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) exploits the opportunity to milk our insecurities for all they’re worth with his simple and effective chiller.
Inspired by a recurring nightmare, It Follows was never likely to win any awards for its complexity and there may be no other film this year with quite such an unfettered premise. We were already aware that sex killed way back in the eighties when Frankie Goes To Hollywood proposed we Relax so it should come as no surprise to us that the case still stands, even though A.I.D.S. just ain’t that chic anymore. Nowadays there’s an ointment for anything and a once devastating STD has become little more than just another mild itch to scratch. While we all sit around waiting for A.I.D.S. 2 to arrive, we need to find a solution to all this unnecessary teenage pregnancy and genital unpleasantries. It’s here that Mitchell has himself a doozy and, as a result, his sophomore full-length feature, shot for a modest $2m, has already gone on to gross eight times that in box office receipts. That alone should make up for any lack of silverware for originality.
To remark that there is nothing here that hasn’t already been done countless times already wouldn’t necessarily be doing It Follows the justice it deserves. You see, that’s kind of the point. Mitchell’s chosen path through the late seventies and early eighties was not dissimilar to my own and I’m guessing that, like Keeper, a little of him died inside when Malcolm McDowell declared himself the world’s new Loomis. He knows what works; the kind of unease which exists within our minds and how to both access and facilitate such. He even goes one step further and suggests that the freaks don’t necessarily have to only come out at night. Moreover, their threat is omnipresent whether brunch or supper, and the real salt on the slug is that the dread is pulled taut across our screen in CinemaScope.
For any uninitiated It Follows virgins amongst us, the punishment for engaging in coitus, both sweaty and dry, is your own personal shadow. Dunk that bratwurst or part those mutton gates and you’re for the high jump; doomed to spend the short remainder of your existence looking nervously over your shoulder as death comes in many guises. If you catch somebody in your tertiary vision advancing with a solemn look on their face and the excess skin of one testicle hanging from their zipper then chances are they ain’t Mormon and you’d better be getting your skates on. One touch and it’s curtains unless, of course, you decide to pay it forward. That’s right kids; it pays to be promiscuous. Sleep around and it becomes some other poor bastard’s problem but that’s where the twist comes in. You ever heard the term return to sender? Fuck someone ugly, and it’s back to you faster than a fart in an inner tube.
Mitchell takes such a limited concept and runs like Gump with it; clattering a couple of hurdles before the finish line but still making it there way ahead of the pack. We all know that Laurie Strode will forever rue the moment that she checked out the window to see if her laundry was dry. Well I will always curse the 7′ 7″ tall Mike Lanier for learning the secret knock. If you have already shared the It Follows experience then you’ll know precisely what I’m driving at; this scene alone almost ensured that I parted with my favorite kidney through way of anal excision. And there are plentiful others besides. Quite why a butt naked pensioner would opt for a rooftop as his point of insertion when approaching his target is anyone’s guess but then it was never called It Reasons after all. By foul means or fouler, and, just as it states on the tin, It Follows. You could never accuse Mitchell of false advertising.
Maika Monroe is a name we will be hearing a lot more of in coming years and here she is quintessential as the tormented Jay. There is more than a whiff of Chloë Sevigny about her and that is ideal considering her character is a lot more pensive than the usual ripened cannon fodder. Any parents choosing to view It Follows as a cautionary tale about the perils of teen coupling will be pleased to learn that Monroe’s character is thoughtful and not so fast to yell “hot potato”. Her boyfriend Hugh/Jeff (an also excellent Jake Weary) may appear to be something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing but his cowardice in passing the buck to a young impressionable girl in the bloom of first love through way of chloroform, length of rope, and flimsy explanation, speaks volumes about young bucks and their devil-may-care attitude to casual sex, should you opt to peruse any subtext.
The presence of Jay’s close-knit group of friends is also of great significance as Mitchell decides against the usual cookie-cutter affiliations in favor of genuinely sympathetic gatekeepers who are prepared to risk their own hides to secure her safe passage and help her break the hoodoo. Paul (Keir Gilchrist) is willing to take one for the team and sleep with her, not because he can’t keep his dick in his pants, but because he truly cares for her and the dialogue is far better written and less forced than the usual teen fare making it effortless forging a connection. Moreover, the post-recession Detroit suburbs are eerily unpopulated by adults and Mitchell himself likens this to the Peanuts cartoon strips of his childhood. The repercussions of unprotected teenage sex are enough to make kids grow up fast and all the main players are up to the challenge, while still displaying enough childlike tendencies to identify with.
In addition to the teens being less disposable than the average lambs, the score by Disasterpeace is critical to our investment. Rich Vreeland is evidently as inspired by John Carpenter as Mitchell is and his inspired composition consists of one part synthesized homage to the master and, the other, a collection of pulsating and jabbing sound bytes designed to loosen the skin from our frigid bones just a little more. Interestingly, It Follows chooses against following the droves and concluding with a crowd-pleasing finale we’ve all seen a thousand times already and instead leaves us to pondering fates long after the credits have rolled which is always a plus in my book.
Whether Mitchell’s film deserves to be called a classic of its time is open to discussion. It’s brave but never boorish, unsettling whilst rarely ever needing to resort to boo tactics, and 100 minutes passes with more than enough incident to uphold our interest unerringly. Films such as this are required to gestate for a few years before we can truly know whether they’re likely to be remembered. One thing’s for sure, I have been a lot less inclined to go for a twilight stroll since watching it so, in that respect at least, I guess it has itself one converted follower.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Dread Factor: 4/5
For the Dread-Heads: For the first act, I became accustomed to my blood running cold every time our nonchalant shape-shifting evil revealed itself but I found myself a little desensitized by around the midway mark. Perhaps that’s intentional, after all, it certainly marries with the mindset of our main protagonist as he begins to accept her unfavorable responsibility. What really helps It Follows stand out from the crowd is that it doesn’t deem it necessary conforming to the norm in order to quicken our pulses. A mute, malevolent stranger is all it takes.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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