In this age of torture porn, ironic distance and daily real-world outrage, can cinema still offer up an authentically frightening experience? Welcome to the answer. For his second feature after gentle teen comedy ‘The Myth of the American Sleepover’, American writer-director David Robert Mitchell has produced the most unexpected and downright unnerving fright flick in years, a film which riffs smartly on the classics while adding something ineffable all of its own. Imagine the nightmare of ‘Under the Skin’ set on Elm Street.
We open in the heart of Michael Myers country, a down-at-heel American suburb populated by long-limbed teenage girls and their scruffy, oversexed male admirers. When Jay (Maika Monroe) makes the mistake of surrendering to one of the aforementioned, she finds herself followed by a mysterious, slow-moving presence that can assume any human form.
And that’s essentially it, plot-wise: like ‘Candyman’ and ‘The Ring’ – both clear influences – ‘It Follows’ possesses the folklorish simplicity of an urban legend, with the added spice of an unsubtle but smartly deployed STD metaphor. But it’s in style and tone that the film comes alive, its prowling, dreamlike atmosphere, down-to-earth performances and unerring visual confidence echoing early Terrence Malick or the best of Harmony Korine.
It’s impossible adequately to describe the haunting intensity of ‘It Follows’: this is a film that makes a virtue of silence, that lives in the shadowy spaces between the splattery kill scenes that punctuate your average stalk-and-slasher. Like its enigmatic monster, it’s both passive and relentless, familiar and terrifying, predictable and shocking – and impossible to shake off.