It Follows

Director:  David Robert Mitchell (2015)

The sex life of a young girl returns to haunt her in this teen queen scream horror show.

Employing intelligence, tremendous technique and a great central performance, this is an original, nerve-rippingly tense and supremely scary shocker.

Jay (Maika Monroe) is attacked by kind-of-boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) after sex in the car. She wakes to find herself strapped into a chair in an abandoned carpark.

As a naked woman slowly walks towards them, Hugh explains he has passed a curse onto Jay.

Unless she can pass the curse on through sex to someone else, she will be stalked forever by the monster – the It – until she’s caught and killed. When she’s dead the monster will move back down the line to Hugh and kill him and so on.

The relentless, slow moving It always takes on the form of a loved one and is disturbingly effective as it lumbers after Jay

Armed only with a conscience Jay shies away from what she sees as nuclear option of making others a victim to save herself. Her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and friends Paul, Yara and Greg (Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi and Daniel Zovatto) rally to help.

Everything is played at face value and is more involving for it. There’s no comedic meta banter about how teenagers behave in horror films.

Up to the point when Jay’s willpower breaks there’s intrigue in guessing who her choice will fall on. The film is canny enough to suggest she pays an emotional price for her behaviour.

Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis carefully controlled camera is often stationary but will occasionally turn in hypnotic loops. The editing by Julio Perez IV is equally seductive.

Set in Detroit, the decaying city is a major character, suggestive of an Eden destroyed. After a few days hiding, their shared bedroom begins to resemble a drug-ridden squat.

The first house we see is number 1492, linking the history of America with sex, violence and death.

Although set in contemporary USA, the production design is rooted in the past with cathode ray TV’s, clamshell phones and classic films playing at the cinema. There is too much stonewashed denim.

Sparse dialogue is punctuated by a thunderous industrial synth soundtrack that belongs in the 1980’s, strengthening the It as an AIDS metaphor. But there’s no heavy-handed message to interrupt the assured and creepy storytelling.

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