Daily | Cannes 2014 | David Robert Mitchell’s IT FOLLOWS

It Follows

‘It Follows’

David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows has premiered in Critics’ Week, and its “premise is inventive, brutally simple, and wisely left unexplained,” writes Mike D’Angelo at the Dissolve. “After sleeping with new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), Jay (Maika Monroe) finds herself constantly pursued by… something. Wherever she is in the world, this thing, which can take any human form, and which no uninfected person can see, is walking directly toward her, at a steady but moderate pace, with murder on its mind. It can easily be outrun, but it never stops coming, and the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to somebody else via sexual intercourse—though if it kills that person, it reverts right back to stalking you…. It Follows just goes to town with its spectacularly creepy conceit” and “demonstrates anew that true horror requires neither gore nor jump scares, just vulnerability.”

“Mitchell, who made the coming-of-age picture The Myth of the American Sleepover, has returned to suburban Michigan, locking his lens on another group of adolescents burning away their final days of youth,” writes the AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd. “Only difference is that there’s more than the future creeping up on them this time. As in Myth, the actors mostly look and talk like actual kids, and their characters express subtle anxiety about the adulthood that awaits them. Because the curse is transmitted through sex, some have already read the ‘it’ of the title as a kind of walking STD. But that doesn’t really scan, given the escape plan Mitchell provides. (You don’t get rid of, say, HIV by passing it to someone else.) The metaphor is looser, and the monster a personification of myriad fears—of growing up too fast, or of old sexual experiences, which continue to haunt us even as we create new ones.”

“Creepy, suspenseful and sustained, this skillfully made lo-fi horror movie plays knowingly with genre tropes and yet never winks at the audience, giving it a refreshing face-value earnestness that makes it all the more gripping,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “Passing references to 1950s horror are sprinkled throughout the movie, which at times feels like Invasion of the Body Snatchers by way of a dreamy indie teenage limbo portrait.”

Recorded in 2011

“From the speaker-shaking Carpenter-esque score, to the macabre irony of Dario Argento, to the allegorical candor of Wes Craven, this is a movie that wears its influences on its sleeve while boldly embracing the myriad tricks and tropes of the genre,” writes Adam Woodward for Little White Lies. “Car sex, creaky swingsets, cornfields, eerie winds, it’s all here. Though familiar, however, the iconography and motifs Mitchell infuses his film with never feel trite or out of place.”

“After the first screening,” reports Jessica Kiang at the Playlist, “the word of mouth only got louder and its status as one of the breakout hits of this or any other sidebar seems assured, with not a few impetuous critics rushing to declare it their find of the festival. If, to our mind, that might rather be overpraise, that’s not to suggest we didn’t greatly enjoy the film’s spirited ambition to fuse an arthouse sensibility with classic genre horror, but there were occasions when we felt the two impulses cancel each other out rather than complement and comment on each other.”

“Mitchell clearly signals his maturing talent in this second film, not only as a writer but with his increasingly sophisticated delivery of imagery,” writes Fionnuala Halligan for Screen Daily. Jason Gorber at Twitch: “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.”

Updates, 5/19: “The most exciting film in Cannes has landed, like some terrifying specter on the beach,” writes the Telegraph‘s Tim Robey. “Despite borrowing cleverly from the best, It Follows still manages to feel like no other example in recent years—tender, remarkably ingenious and scalp-pricklingly scary.”

HitFix‘s Drew McWeeney: “There’s something really compelling about watching what feels like his first film suddenly erupt into a supernatural nightmare, and it feels like Mitchell’s just as much of a soft spot for Carpenter’s Haddonfield as he does for Linklater’s Austin.”

“Shot by talented DP Mike Gioulakis in and around Detroit with plenty of menacing Steadicam, with an appealing cast of not particularly famous young actors, the aesthetic is similar to Mitchell’s likeable debut,” writes Catherine Bray at Sight & Sound, “though the end product is more satisfying and sophisticated. Of particular note is the score by Disasterpeace, which combines doomy synths and skilfully orchestrated mounting dread with a fuzzy grunginess that feels like a John Carpenter score for a new era (there’s a dash of Vangelis in there too).”

It Follows

‘It Follows’

Updates, 5/21: Ben Kenigsberg at “While the premise proves frustratingly malleable (the film is both pro- and anti-intimacy) and raises several gaps in logic (does using protection help? If you know you can’t shoot a ghost, why would you try to electrocute it?), Mitchell strikes an impressive balance between the loose-limbed conversational scenes of his low-key The Myth of the American Sleepover and the more conventional scare tactics that the genre demands.”

It Follows “accentuates the fear even in broad daylight, as our eyes scan the background for potential sauntering menace,” writes Aaron Hillis for Filmmaker. “Though a couple action-and-FX setpieces—one at a beach house, the other at a municipal pool—conspicuously place the film in the genre canon, it’s still a nuanced, observational portrait of teens wiling the hours away.”

At Buzzfeed, Alison Willmore finds that it “holds onto its sense of mystery and lyricism, its dread ultimately feeling like a more general sort about adult life and the growing awareness of mortality that comes with it—a terrifying coming-of-age tale.”

Update, 5/24: “The period details hint at a story set in the eighties, but Mitchell keeps the specifics of the time and place obscured throughout,” notes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “It’s as if the teens are alone in an imaginary place defined by their limited perspectives, and their anxiety over the entity’s recurring appearances in various different forms becomes a potent symbol of inescapable challenges lurking just beyond their understanding.”

Update, 5/28: “As Mitchell explained at the pic’s premiere in Cannes, It Follows marks his attempt to make a ‘beautiful horror movie’—equal parts gentle and aggressive,” writes Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “At times, his meticulous compositions rival Gregory Crewdson’s ethereal suburban-gothic photographs (sometimes staged at roughly the same budget as this admirably inexpensive feature). While It Follows isn’t a period piece per se, the incidents take place in a world of abandoned buildings, rusty old American automobiles and outdated landline telephones. Even without a supernatural stalker in the mix, one wants to advise these kids—which include plausible next-door types Olivia Luccardi and Lili Sepe, awkwardly shy Keir Gilchrist and faux-tough Daniel Zovatto—to run away from this dead-end existence as fast and as far as they can.”

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