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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 09.29.14] horror

I didn't care much for The Myth of the American Sleepover when I caught up with it a few years ago following a successful festival run and when buzz started to generate around writer/director David Robert Mitchell's follow-up, I assumed that it too might suffer from overwrought festival praise but the prospect of seeing this at one of the best venues in town for midnight movies and joined by good company and the prospect of a few drinks, it seemed like giving this a whirl couldn't hurt. Good thing too because It Follows delivers the goods; a crowd pleaser particularly, though not exclusively, if that crowd happens to be fans of 80s horror.

Rising star Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a cute and bubbly teen who has everything going for her. Her new boyfriend is a slice of handsome and the pair are ready to seal the deal except that right after the lovely quickie in the back seat of his car, he knocks her out, ties her up and proceeds to explain his conundrum: he's passed something on to her. A new type of STD that will haunt you, make you do bad things and eventually kill you and the person that gave it to you. The only way to avoid death is to pass it on. Since Jay is a cute girl, that shouldn't be much trouble. So basically, sex is not only good but it will save your life. Too bad it's also to blame for the fact that you got caught in this nightmare to begin with. Talk about complicated sexual politics.

From the get go It Follows sheds any notions that it's something other than a horror movie but as the opening scene fades into memory, the first act feels more like an awkward teen relationship drama than anything else. It does, however, continue to sound like a horror movie and Mitchell never once lets us forget that something terrible could be around the next corner.

Like the best of the genre, It Follows plays with anticipation. We know the final outcome but having given us the knowledge, Mitchell now has the ammo to play with the audience and much of It Follows' success comes from the director's ability to play against the audience's expectations. It's a good tactic that is used to great success here so much so that when things finally do start to go wrong, the audience is half expecting Jay to be having a nightmare rather than actually living the events.

Monroe plays a likable scream queen and her sidekicks are equally appealing but what makes It Follows such a success is the execution. From the opening scene it's clear Mitchell and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis know exactly what they're doing and the score from Rich Vreeland, recording as "Disasterpeace," is a brilliant John Carpenter influenced bit of gloomy electronica that sounds like it could easily have been lifted from any number of great classic horror movies.

While it's easy to draw comparisons to Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, the approach of It Follows reminded me more of Brian De Palma's early work than anything else but the earlier comparisons are equally apt and very clearly what Mitchell and his team were aiming for.

Regardless of where he borrowed from, nothing diminishes the fact that with It Follows, Mitchell has delivered an aptly made horror movie that manages to mostly skirt jump scares and gore to deliver one hell of a good piece of entertainment.

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