Review: IT FOLLOWS, A Pure Thriller

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@filmfest_ca)
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Review: IT FOLLOWS, A Pure Thriller

With a terrific cold opening, a somber and effective mood, strong performances and assured direction, there's lots to love about It Follows. It's a kind of pure thriller, with a few shocks mixed into what's a remarkably consistent vision that makes for a quite powerful experience.

The concept is beautifully simple, but its one of the pleasures of the film to find out just what's going on after the shocking opening sequence. Without being too vague, suffice it to say this is one of the more macabre games of tag in any genre film, with the added benefit of providing one of the more problematic of sexually transmitted concerns.

There's no specific genre category that the film falls into, other than the slow-moving trope popularized by George Romero and his incessant hordes ("not zombies!" as he often declares). The film's at its best when it distills this concept -- the slow moving figure staring blankly into the camera, looming ever closer -- into a very precise and effective element of the film, avoiding for the most part ever having the escalating danger feel repetitive or too predictable.

Also to the film's credit, director David Robert Mitchell and his ensemble cast never wink at their audience. This is certainly straight faced, but it's never dull or ordinary, lensed in a way that makes sense for the setting, with shots composed rather than using the silly crutch of nausea-cam.

Maika Monroe (Labor Day) is particularly striking in the lead, and the rest of her compatriots serve the story well, forming a kind of Goonies-like clique with some quite provocative twists. It's a post-adolescent group, but they bond in a very high school way, yet the relationships never feel sophomoric. It's clearly a script that spent as much time working on drawing rich characters as it did on finding moments to scare an audience, and it's very much appreciated.

There were a few moments towards the end where it lost me. Still, it's always a pleasure when a film can be both spooky and worthy of exegetical discourse after the lights have gone up.

These are quibbles, and save for the gore-whores, I think that this film will work for even the most jaded of spooky-movie lovers. It's not quite a triumph like Oculus, but it's a work that manages to be both old school and very fresh, a wonderfully restrained film that still packs quite a punch.

One thing for certain - it follows that after It Follows I'll be following David Robert Mitchell in his future cinematic journeys, and hope they can be at least as gratifying as this gem of a flick.

Review originally published in slightly different form during the Cannes Film Festival in May 2014. The film opens in select theaters in the U.S. on Friday, March 13, and will also be available to watch on various Video On Demand platforms.

It Follows

  • David Robert Mitchell
  • David Robert Mitchell
  • Bailey Spry
  • Carollette Phillips
  • Loren Bass
  • Keir Gilchrist
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David Robert MitchellHorrorMaike MonroeBailey SpryCarollette PhillipsLoren BassKeir GilchristMystery

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aleksandarWH7 .March 12, 2015 6:37 PM

"It's not quite a triumph like Oculus " - Damn, Oculus was pretty bad, I really hope this is better and judging by other reviews it certainly looks like it is!

cjohnstonMarch 12, 2015 7:15 PM

to each their own. Lol
-- (for me) if you like the overall "vibe" of Oculus; i'd DEFINITELY recommend the likes of The Aggression Scale, Burning Bright, and A Lonely Place To Die.

Martin WagnerMarch 12, 2015 7:19 PM

I saw this at Fantastic Fest and while I liked it a lot, especially all of its Carpenter touches, I didn't fall madly in love with it as most people seemed to. (The Babadook is worlds better.) Mainly I thought it was hampered by moments in the narrative that lack clarity and one especially naff sequence set on a beach that's marred by poor VFX. Hopefully they've managed to go back and clean up that sequence since acquiring distribution.

Still, I will say that overall it is DEFINITELY worth a watch and probably better than 98% of what passes for horror cinema these days.

cjohnstonMarch 12, 2015 7:26 PM

Genuinely Curious as well as Interested....

~ ..have you had opportunity to see the likes of The Aggression Scale, Burning Bright, and/or A Lonely Place To Die.?

Martin WagnerMarch 12, 2015 10:22 PM

Not yet, but eager to see The Aggression Scale in particular.

Rage72March 12, 2015 10:58 PM

I agree, I don't understand how so many people liked Oculus, I felt it was a boring, shouting match between a brother and sister and with a plot twist you could figure out in the first half of the movie, it sucked IMO.

Rage72March 12, 2015 11:00 PM

The Aggression Scale was awesome. I put it up there with "You're Next" as one of the best home invasion movies ever made.

BtoFuMarch 12, 2015 11:11 PM

My favourite of the year thus far. You can feel it drawing from the well of its influences at almost every turn, but what sets it apart from the crowd of copycats for me is the pace and the time afforded to the hang-out movie vibe. Both elements allow for one rare foothold in this type of horror film - None of Jay's friends feel like meatbag fodder, purposefully set to the tone of irritating so that when the time comes for them to die the audience is guided into cheering.

By virtue of the rules 'It' follows, it isn't technically possible for the group to all come under the same degree of danger anyway - but the rapport between them felt so genuine that I really wanted them all to survive. I got so comfortable with them in quiet moments that every encounter really did ratchet up the dread...even with the comical realization that it will never even fancy lightly jogging after you.

The Disasterpeace score as well: the resurgence of synth and (freshness?) of loud chiptune music echoing through theatres is strangely comforting to me. I must be getting old. :p

cjohnstonMarch 12, 2015 11:15 PM

..i Like to think of it as: Home Alone on Steroids...

cjohnstonMarch 12, 2015 11:23 PM

Darn Straight..!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
-- to each their own and all that jazz; *i get that.(!) and i absolutely respect that too; ~ ~ For me - i'd put agrescale as several "tics" ABOVE You're Next; but.. hey -- as i said just above -what one person likes/loves another person might not (as much).

I happen to LOVE and am near GIDDY over the likes of Sucker Punch, Automata, Snowpiercer, and Man of Steel - others can't stand their innards..
~ ~ ~
glad (THRILLED actually) that SOMEONE else has even HEARD of Aggression Scale.!!
*to pick nits, ..actually you might be the second person since i saw agrescale some year and a half ago or so.

In 'describing' and summing it up to others;
i like to "condense"/summarize the film as follows: Home Alone on Steroids.

Rage72March 13, 2015 6:50 AM

YES!! I also felt that the Aggression Scale was more realistic, in a way that, sometimes you don't what might be in a home before you purchase it and believable that thieves will do anything to get to what belongs to them! Great movie cjohnston!

cjohnstonMarch 14, 2015 4:57 PM

..Scene A Lonely Place To Die and/or
Burning Bright per chance.??
(both those, much like AS, spit fire too)