Creeping Dread: David Robert Mitchell’s ‘It Follows’

As is tradition for new writers at PopHorror, I was tasked with writing a piece on my favorite film as a sort of introduction to the site’s readers. I fretted. My two favorite flicks are George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead and John Carpenter’s The Thing, two classic works that have been written about endlessly. I’ve instead opted to tread less well travelled ground and write about my favorite horror film from the last twenty years, writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows from 2014. I remember well the first time I saw it, as I woke up mid-scream the night after I screened it. It’s okay; it happens to everyone once in a while. I had a nightmare, and it was fueled by Mitchell’s dreamy film. You might think it’s weird, but as soon as I came to my senses, I started smiling. It Follows is a throwback in some ways to ’80s horror cinema, and Carpenter’s Halloween looms large. However, it’s not done in that post-modern ironic way that’s so popular these days. It’s sincere. It’s interesting. Most of all, though, it’s fun.


The conceit is beautiful in its simplicity. An entity, invisible but nevertheless tangible, to all but those who have been cursed, relentlessly stalks its victim. The curse is passed on from one person to another by having sex. It’s sort of like a supernatural STD. Only the most recently cursed person is in immediate danger, although if that person is killed by the entity, it then moves on to kill the previous carrier, and so on. It can appear to its victims as anyone, from a close friend to an absolute stranger. Oh, and while it might be slow, it’s not dumb. The performances in It Follows are all well done. Maika Monroe (The Guest 2014) and Keir Gilchrist (Dead Silence 2007) both bring very humanistic qualities to their well-rounded characters. No stereotypes here. I enjoyed spending time with them. It’s also always cool to see so many prominent female roles in a film that aren’t just there for window dressing.
As I alluded to above, Halloween (1978) seems to have been a huge influence on the production. Reason number one for this is the score by Disasterpiece (Under the Silver Lake 2018). The absolutely beautiful and haunting synth soundscape gives the film an atmosphere of creeping dread that compliments the story perfectly. Reason number two is the mesmerizing camerawork by Mike Gioulakis (John Dies at the End 2012), with Steadicam stalking sequences that recall the opening to Carpenter’s genre-defining slasher. Location shooting provides flavor as we are whisked around suburban and desolate inner-city Detroit. I truly enjoy all of the 360-degree pans, too. This isn’t just a DP showing off, though. It is essential to the aesthetic of the film. It may be subconscious, but it suggests the feeling of purposeful watching and, conversely, of being watched. I can’t stress enough how magnificent the camera movement is as we float along on the ocean of paranoia that the film creates.

I also enjoy how the story is somewhat ahistorical and purposefully confounding even with regards to what the season is. Obsolete technologies mingle with devices that are seemingly modern but that don’t really exist in the real world. Costumes used include coats and summer wear, even though the story takes place over a short period of time. It’s subtle, but it’s disorienting, and when combined with the camerawork, it’s evocative of the dream logic that’s embedded in the film’s DNA.

As you might have gathered, I think David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows is an original, creative, and stylish flick. While it’s not the most graphic film, or really even the most horrifying, it managed to make me wake my wife up in the dead of night with a strangled liminal scream. It followed me right into my nightmares. I ask you, what better praise to give a horror film?

 

About Mike Cavender

How many movies and comics can one man consume in a lifetime? Mike intends to find out. Occasionally, he'll tell you about it. Whether you want to hear about it or not.

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