×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes Film Review: ‘It Follows’

This horror movie from 'The Myth of the American Sleepover' helmer David Robert Mitchell capitalizes on his gift for atmosphere.

With:
Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe.

When director David Robert Mitchell appeared on the indie scene in 2010 with “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” few would have guessed that his next project might be a horror movie. And yet, as follow-ups go, “It Follows” makes perfect sense, applying what worked best about that debut — namely, its haunting evocation of adolescent anxiety and yearning, set against the backdrop of an atmospheric Michigan suburb — to a far more commercial genre. Starting off strong before losing its way in the end, this stylish, suspenseful chiller should significantly broaden Mitchell’s audience without disappointing his early supporters in the slightest.

From the opening scene, the pic feels different from typical genre fare: A disoriented young woman stumbles out into the street of an otherwise peaceful tree-lined neighborhood. The camera keeps its distance, slowly rotating as she runs up and down the block, trying to avoid a threat only she can see. The next morning, the girl’s corpse is found down by the lake, twisted beyond recognition.

Something scary is stalking the young people in this WASP-y Detroit suburb — the same environment where Mitchell grew up. If “Myth” was his John Hughes homage, then “It Follows” is the director’s best stab at doing John Carpenter. From the eerie electronic score to the suffocating sense of dread, the resemblance is uncanny: This is the kind of film that, if watched on VHS, might have kept the slumber-party teens wide awake in his last movie. Except that on video, they would have missed out on Mitchell’s expert use of widescreen, in which audiences are constantly looking over the character’s shoulder, scanning the frame to find the “follower.”

As bogeymen go, Mitchell’s monster is both intuitive (like something out of a bad dream) and impossible to comprehend (despite much discussion, no one seems to know how to beat it). The pic’s malevolent shape-shifter can take the form of anyone, from a beloved relative to a complete stranger. Sometimes it’s subtle enough to blend in with crowds. At others, it’s frighteningly conspicuous: a naked old man staring at you from a nearby rooftop, or a cheerleader leaking urine as she lurches across the living-room floor. The only certainty seems to be that it won’t stop until you’re dead. And once you’re dead, it will go after the person who “gave” it to you.

Judging strictly from a filmmaking p.o.v., “It Follows” is remarkably effective for most of its running time, ratcheting up the tension, then stinging the audience periodically with one of those jolts that sends everyone levitating a couple inches above their seats. But the excitement wears off after a point, once the kids realize they don’t really understand what they’re dealing with, resulting in a couple of badly staged setpieces, including a clunky lakeside attack and a virtually nonsensical climactic encounter at a public pool, where a plan that wasn’t clear to begin with goes awry.

Generally speaking, horror is only as potent as whatever fear it exploits, and “It Follows” relies a bit too heavily on a wobbly venereal-disease allegory. Instead of exploiting near-universal adolescent anxieties about virginity, Mitchell creates a situation where the infected are super-motivated to pass it on. All it takes is one ill-advised backseat tryst to turn carefree college-aged beauty Jay (“The Bling Ring’s” Maika Monroe) into a paranoid mess. As it is, the neighborhood kids are constantly spying on her, but after hooking up with the wrong guy (Jake Weary), she starts to notice all sorts of creepy people in her peripheral vision.

As Mitchell explained at the pic’s premiere in Cannes, “It Follows” marks his attempt to make a “beautiful horror movie” — equal parts gentle and aggressive. At times, his meticulous compositions rival Gregory Crewdson’s ethereal suburban-gothic photographs (sometimes staged at roughly the same budget as this admirably inexpensive feature). While “It Follows” isn’t a period piece per se, the incidents take place in a world of abandoned buildings, rusty old American automobiles and outdated landline telephones. Even without a supernatural stalker in the mix, one wants to advise these kids — who include plausible next-door types Olivia Luccardi and Lili Sepe, awkwardly shy Keir Gilchrist and faux-tough Daniel Zovatto — to run away from this dead-end existence as fast and as far as they can.

Cannes Film Review: 'It Follows'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics’ Week), May, 2014. Running time: 107 MIN.

Production: A Northern Lights Films presentation of a Animal Kingdom production in association with Two Flints. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by Rebecca Green, Laura D. Smith, David Robert Mitchell, David Kaplan, Erik Rommesmo. Executive producers, Frederick W. Green, Joshua Astrachan, P. Jennifer Dana, Jeff Schlossman, Bill Wallwork, Alan Pao, Corey Large, Mia Chang. Co-producer, Robyn K. Bennett.

Crew: Directed, written by David Robert Mitchell. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Michael Gioulakis; editor, Julio C. Perez IV; music, Disasterpeace; production designer, Michael T. Perry; costume designer, Kimberly Leitz-McCauley; special makeup effects producer, Robert Kurtzman; casting, Mark Bennett.

With: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe.

More Film

  • Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts

    Cannes: China's 'Summer of Changsha' Debuts Without Censorship Approval

    Chinese crime drama “Summer of Changsha” screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section despite lacking the necessary approvals from China’s censors. It premiered without its director or creative team in attendance, who blamed “technical reasons” for their absence — marking the third time that Chinese censorship appears to have caused [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • John Wick Chapter 3

    'John Wick: Chapter 3' Tones Down the Blood and Gore to Keep Look 'Totally Real'

    When Jeff Campbell, a visual effects supervisor with VFX studio Spin, initially set to work on the first “John Wick,” the 2014 action thriller from director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad, he started with an industry-standard test: Establish a single, simple kill effect meant to get a sense of the look of the violence [...]

  • Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cinéfondation

    Louise Courvoisier’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Wins Cannes Cinefondation Selection Top Prize

    CANNES–“Mano a Mano,” by Louise Courvoisier of France’s CinéFabrique, won the first prize Thursday at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection,the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards. The prize was awarded by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis (“Beau Travail”). The jury also included French actress Stacy Martin (“Godard mon amour”); Israeli writer-director Eran [...]

  • The Traitor

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Traitor'

    What surprises most about Marco Bellocchio’s Mafia drama “The Traitor” is just how straightforward it is. Given its subject — Tommaso Buscetta, the highest-ranking Mafia don to sing to the authorities — there were expectations that the director would deliver a theatrical drama along the lines of “Vincere,” but notwithstanding a few operatic flourishes, his [...]

  • Perfect Strangers

    Zhao Tao, Rajkumar Hirani Join Shanghai Festival Jury

    Italian director Paolo Genovese and Chinese actress Zhao Tao are among members of the jury for the upcoming Shanghai International Film Festival. They join the previously announced jury president, 2014 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish director behind last year’s “The Wild Pear Tree.” Genovese’s 2016 film “Perfect Strangers” made $7.7 million [...]

  • ‘An Easy Girl’ Wins Cannes Directors’

    ‘An Easy Girl’ Wins Cannes Directors’ Fortnight French-language Movie Prize

    CANNES  —  One of France’s most highly-regarded young women filmmakers, Rebecca Zlotowski, has won the Directors’ Fortnight prize for best French-language movie for “An Easy Girl,” a sensual coming of age tale set on France’s Cote d’Azur. From reviews published to date, “An Easy Girl” marks a return to form for Zlotowski after the disappointment [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content