It Follows (2014)

(Netflix Streaming, December 2015) Despite its unlimited potential, genre horror too often becomes stale, relying on the same monsters, gimmicks and metaphors.  As a result, the average horror movie has become intensely predictable, familiar and suspense-free.  But there are a few films willing to shake it up, and It Follows is a refreshing example of genre reinvigoration.  Benefiting from an unusual premise and a remarkable absence of special effects, It Follows remixes lumbering zombies, AIDS metaphors, an eighties-style synth-based soundtrack and unnerving wide-shot cinematography to deliver something that feels fresh and daring.  It’s superficially about a sexually-transmitted monster antagonist that walks up to their target in order to kill them horribly, but it gets a lot of mileage out of that simple premise: Effectively building dread rather than disgust or shock, It Follows manages to say a few interesting things about its teenage horror protagonists and their relationship with sex and death. (Never mind the adults: They don’t figure in the film.)  Writer/director David Robert Mitchell knows what he’s doing, layers in thematic depth, blurs his eras, presents effective nightmare-based frights and gets a lot of sympathy for his characters.  It doesn’t take much more than the opening shots (which simply rotates 360-degrees to present the situation for reasons we later understand) to set us on edge, something that the deliberately off-putting soundtrack later reinforces.  While some aspects of the film can be a bit blurry to the point of owing more to dream-logic than solid plotting, and while one could quibble almost endlessly with various aspects of the premise, its logic or its development (let alone its origin), there’s no denying the effectiveness of the scares or the compelling nature of the film as the characters try to figure what’s happening to them.  Maika Monroe is particularly good in the lead role.  It Follows feels new and disquieting, which should please those who feel a bit jaded with horror movies.  One word of advice: try to see the film on as big a screen as possible: The cinematography often shows action or important images as part of a much wider frame.

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