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Follows About To Shock: It Follows Reviewed
Mat Colegate , February 6th, 2015 10:21

Mat Colegate peeks through his fingers at game changing supernatural horror, It Follows

You don't have to be the most in-up-to-the-armpits gore fiend to have seen your fair share of teenagers-in-trouble horror movies. Constantly bludgeoned, assaulted, spiked, hacked, melted, desecrated, mutated, violated and victimised, teenagers are the ultimate horror whipping beast; the constant recipients of an ire and revulsion so strong – “How dare they! How dare they be so fucking young!” - that the only option left to film makers is to gloat over their brutal demises. We love it, of course. Our appetite for watching youth twisting in the breeze seems unending, but every once in a while you find yourself wishing for something a little different from the usual discover-chase-stab scenario; something that grasps youth's confusion and fear as the everlasting Summers draw to their desperate ends. It Follows does the job confidently and originally.

From the very first scene, writer and director David Robert Mitchell shows that he is unafraid to mess with the most basic genre conventions (did you ever see the frantic teenage victim run back in to the house she's just been chased out of?), while still demonstrating an affinity and awareness as to what makes such films so satisfying (in this case, some classy gore). The opening scene shows us everything we need to know – beautifully shot in bleached autumnal tones, the camera steadily pacing through and around the white-fenced American suburbs, the soundtrack of monolithic Carpenter-esque synth mixed just that little bit too loud.

When the film proper starts we're in the world of 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe). She hangs out with her friends, floats in the pool in her garden, watches vintage science-fiction movies on TV (because there are always vintage science fiction movies on TV in these things) and has sex with a guy called Hugh (Jake Weary) who, in one of the film's most well shot and frightening scenes, straps her to a wheelchair and explains that, from now on, she will constantly be followed by apparitions that mean to do her harm. Jay enlists the help of her friends to find out the origin of the curse, and hopefully, to defeat it.

Given the premise, It Follows could have ended up as a crass, finger-wagging treatise on the dangers of teenage sexual freedom, following the age-old have-sex-and-there's-hell-to-pay template so effectively lampooned (and lovingly recreated) in the Scream series. But Mitchell is attempting to convey something a lot bigger here; something more complicated and profound. Indeed, for most of its running time It Follows barely feels like a horror film at all, having more in common with the washed-out and dreamlike feel of Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides, or, more pertinently given its subject matter, Charles Burns' comic book evocation of teenage lust and the terrors of change, Black Hole.

Like Black Hole, It Follows is set in a subdued all-American teenage fantasy world of sleep-overs, spin-the-bottle and skinny dipping. Parents, when seen, are rarely anything other than a raised eye brow and the rattle of ice in a glass, which leaves the main characters with the weird autonomy to seemingly be able to do anything they like, from running away from home, to barricading themselves into their rooms against an unseen creeping menace. This dreaminess extends to the minimal dialogue and confidently under sketched characterisation. I'm not sure that I can remember the names of any of the supporting cast, but that doesn't matter when they all fall so neatly into the archetypes expected of them – the nerd, the jock, that hot guy with a car who lives over the road – It Follows works best within the perimeters of its own self-created logic, where it can tell its story at its own pace and create its own languid atmosphere.

Sadly there are moments where the film comes unstuck, and these tend to be the moments of more conventional 'horror'. The somewhat literal ways the supernatural reveals itself – throwing household objects, making screeching noises – seem at odds with a lot of what the film has been trying to achieve. At the screening I attended, in a moment of pure William Castle hucksterism, a tall fellow dressed as one of the supernatural aggressors lurched through the audience, resulting in the slightly deflating feeling that someone involved in the marketing isn't quite sure what they've got their hands on. The fear at the heart of It Follows isn't that of violence, but is the fear of the unknown that comes with our inexorable march through time.

What works best about It Follows is its subversion of the most overused of all horror tropes: the chase. In nearly every fright film, going back to the very beginnings of the genre, the protagonists are being pursued by an unstoppable monster that will never give up. It Follows is a graceful and honest examination of the feelings that accompany being pursued by the one thing that no teenager can ever get away from – growing up. It's a difficult position to stake out, but David Mitchell's effort has resulted in what is undoubtedly going to be one of the best horror films of the year.

It Follows is out in UK cinemas on the 27th of February

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