David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows stalks its way into your nightmares

Are we not enough for you?
Retrograde attractions,
Feeding culture highs -
Lowly known, followed

Unwittingly, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows has pipped all others to the post as the indie-fi zeitgeist touchstone of the year so far. With a motion to stand with Don Hertzfeld’s time warp World of Tomorrow and Boyhood’s Girlhood, the picture elides the now with the then (80s) to tackle ‘the culture’ – a looming beast, and its retrograde tendencies. Teen sexual politics, objects, are aestheticized solely into affectation and grounded in unshifting id.

Mitchell’s second feature after 2010’s Myth of the American Sleepover expands into the view of Jay (Maika Monroe), a young woman who, after finding herself gagged and restrained by her date, is perennially ‘followed’ by shifting human creatures visible to nobody but her and other infected persons. “It could look like someone you know or be a stranger in a crowd –whatever helps it get close to you,” opines her trapper-keeper.  Through sex she is cursed with a harrowing, narrowing yet rather slow-moving evil whose touch she must elude lest death take her. Seemingly a lot like the best film school pitch ever sold (I haven’t actually heard any but I’m open to hearing nominations), Jay enlists the help of her group of friends – Scooby Doo-like in make up – to help track the curse to its source and break it, like the old monster horror features always on the house TV.

People begin following Jay, clothed at first and then in various states of undress, reminders of sexual stagnation. Possibly the film’s scariest moment is when Jay decides to pass on her curse, almost as if through compulsion and need alone, to the boy next door. Monroe can only watch as a thing breaks into the unaware boy’s house, his naked mother killing him. Sex is underlined; its great burden and terribly mundane facility written and rewritten on Monroe’s face; a withering luminance.

Mitchell at once panders to and undercuts hipster culture’s trendy nostalgia through never identifying a time or a place. The teens drink ‘Cola Pop’ and play cards on milk crates, watch black and white television, yet read greentext-esque stories from a clam e-reader – the film’s narrative taking place, appropriately, in a nightmarish nether region, scored with a retro electronic soundtrack. Terror is exquisitely wrought with long, winding (literal-lateral) tracking shots, beguiling the more discursive handheld. Sex in cars in faraway places, bedrooms a tangle of sleeping bodies; the sometimes-arch quality of the situations and objects being synthesised not for meta-comment as in Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, but for the purpose of reaffirming the horror of teenage stagnation. Being secluded is more helpful than a crowded place, where anyone could grab you out of nowhere, driving in American cars is the only safe mode.

The film begins to falter near its climax, becoming muddled as the group travel to a swimming pool complex – where two characters first kissed – to break the curse. While the monstrous curse is in part deactivated due to privileging true connection, Mitchell is found echoing the bloodshed of Thomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In with none of the technical virtuosity.

It Follows, however (as it’s kitsch ending demonstrates), still manages to linger creepily within walking distance. “Pretty fucking scary,” a moviegoer across from me gleefully exclaimed as the credits rolled, and the film rightly announces / awakens new talent in David Robert Mitchell and Maika Monroe, if not always at optimal pace.

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