The scene opens with a pretty brunette girl in tight, short summer clothes and red stilettos running startled into the middle of a perfectly parallel suburbia. This is against a screeching, layered soundtrack that’s stylised to emphasise the evening spread out against the sky above those little box houses made of ticky tacky. David Robert Mitchell’s film is sometimes reminiscent of a giallo, but isn’t one. This is a horror film that plays tricks on the brain as it follows its main character, Jay, and her friends as she navigates the spectres of sex and death in Detroit.
Extremely well-made, much of the framing sees the teens sitting in circles, shutting the audience out and creating an intense sense of claustrophobic paranoia about their relationships. This is compounded by Disasterpeace’s soundtrack. It’s a highly stylised, heavy electronic overlay that feels like it’s what the teens’ mood is, rather than what we’d expect them to listen to. This, together with a large number of static long-shots, emphasises a dislocated dread; no one knows quite what’s going on or what it means. This self-conscious artistry suggests a poetic representation of them trying to understand the urban, adult world while being terrified of the slow death of Starbucks and coffee spoons as supposed romance. It is almost preposterously pretentious and, in places, naked in its silliness, yet works because it’s so confident that its cleverness is interesting.
Maika Monroe is the star of the show as the tormented Jay. She looks the typical teen scream queen and has a good set of lungs on her, but with a face that does really good emo. She’s also a great giallo-techno-porno-temptress when in her summer dress. This makes sense as hers is a partly introspective, partly demonstrative role about the way teens are expected to react to SEX and, yes, it’s a little heavy. She’s balanced out with fizzle and pop from her friends, particularly Keir Gilchrist as Paul, who has an adorable, puppy-doggish charm with an insistent and slightly seedy sexual undertone beneath his chivalry. He’s just a boy, after all.
It Follows is a shape-shifter. It has the beats of a typical teen slasher but projects the brainless babes, boyfriends and bonking through an art house approach that glows with the allure of tension rather than chair-jumping terror. Instead of focusing on the frolicky teens’ flesh, we have artistic static shots in which they look moodily into the middle distance, posed as much as ponderous. The entire story can be interpreted differently depending on your view of the intercourse. The one constant, highlighted when it drowns a little under its own philosophical weight, is that it’s keener to be seen as a Gothic intellectual tango than following any particular logic. That said, its imagery is so twisted, yet so beautifully and starkly captured, that it’s oddly clinically matter-of-fact.
If thought freaks you out, this will terrify you.
INFO: IT FOLLOWS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL / STARRING: MAIKA MONROE, KEIR GILCHRIST, CAROLLETTE PHILLIPS, LOREN BASS, OLIVIA LUCCARDI / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 29TH