I have been looking for a reason to come back to “The Strange, Far Places.” I missed it. A bit like an old friend that I haven’t seen in months. Life has simply been so very busy, work has been tyrannical and I’m embarrassed to say that inspiration has been hard to come by.
That changed this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Lakeline here in Austin, Texas.
I return inspired with another review from the world of dark cinema.
With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. ( More on my film poster project at large, here. ANNNND… I’ve also launched a fun NEW FILM POSTER PROJECT here. )
FILM :: IT FOLLOWS
YEAR :: 2015
DIRECTOR :: David Robert Mitchell
What was the source of my rediscovered inspiration, you ask?
I was stirred back to action by an exciting new film that is rightfully becoming the darling of the American horror scene. Of course, I’m talking about the indie masterwork “It Follows.”
Masterwork? For a sophomore effort from a relatively young writer / director / DP team? Yep. It’s high praise AND it’s totally deserved.
The name of the game with “It Follows” is transcendence, the preternatural quality that allows great work to become something far greater.
It starts with concept. Though it’s a simple one… A sexually-transmitted haunting curse… It is its ties to the greater restlessness of adolescence that make this concept far broader and greater.
The plot of “It Follows” swims in the waters of the thirsty longing of need, the deep waters of the sleepy-eyed and eternal pull to the bloom of sexuality slashed by the resulting loss of innocence and the march toward adulthood and ultimately, death. The looming figure of death chases us all, relentlessly pursuing Man with a singularity of purpose, no matter how much we all try to screw it away. We defy death with the electric flowering of our acts of procreation, but can only temporarily slow its steady, morbid advance. It’s always there.
That’s all a part of the central theme of “It Follows” and it’s heady stuff for what could be called a teen horror film. The whole thing could consequently fall into a messy polemic were it not for the sure hand of storyteller / writer / director David Robert Mitchell who imbues the proceedings with just enough mystery to keep us both riveted and questioning in turns.
Then, there’s style. Mitchell and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis have turned a modest $2M indie into a totally artful experience. That has its roots in the influence of greats.
We see John Carpenter and David Lynch here, no question. Many will see that. The masters’ tools are clearly in Mitchel and Gioulakis’ toolbox and they manifest themselves in awesome ways here through the slowly turning and thoroughly disquieting screw of great surreal storytelling.
A heavy visual influence on “It Follows” many may not pick up on is the artistic eye of artist and photographer Gregory Crewdson (at least in what I see). His mark was unmistakable to me and I, for one, was thrilled to see it. Throughout the film, the influence is pervasive, driving the dreamlike tableaus of light and quietly suggested deeper levels of meaning we see, rendering even simple scenes both breathtakingly beautiful and uncomfortably claustrophobic at the same time.
Look at these images from Crewdson’s work.
It’s impossible not to see that mark in scenes like this still taken from “It Follows.”
FROM “IT FOLLOWS” …
If the filmmakers don’t see that influence, tell a humble fan. But it certainly seems unmistakable to me.
There are several other predecessors we see here as well. From the sorrowful teen angst of “The Virgin Suicides” to the detached brutality of “Brick,” “It Follows” is in good company.
That’s not to say the film is derivative. It’s not. It just stands on the shoulders of these landmarks, only to reach to its own heights.
The score is next. Composer Rich Vreeland, AKA Disasterpeace, has created something that exerts an almost auteur-like influence on the mood of “It Follows.” It’s funny to see this soundtrack released at the same moment as John Carpenter’s quiet love letter to evocative minimalism, “Lost Themes.” The two records, when listened back-to-back, almost act as a double album, with Vreeland again clearly building on the incredible work of Carpenter (or soundtrack greats Goblin in a big way as well) while reaching to new territory on his own. This soundtrack instantly finds a place along side those masters in the great horror music canon. I bought it immediately and have been enjoying the heck out of it.
“It Follows” is also quite well cast. Top to bottom, everyone is well-suited for their roles. Lead Maika Monroe heads the cast with a performance that is both awash in a beautiful, simple, naive sexuality as well as a resigned and disaffected dispassion, underscoring the themes of youth, adulthood and death at the core of the film. Keir Gilchrist is her steadfast partner in driving those themes home through his desperately-in-love turn as the youthful Paul. The remaining supporting cast plays out aspects of those themes pitch-perfectly.
In all, “It Follows” is a haunting exploration of the role that sex and relationships play in the doorway between the bravado of youth and the adult onslaught of death. It is a striking and thought-provoking instant classic.
My poster above hits on something directly from the film, but also hints at the nature of the film as well. “It Follows” pushes past the basics of modern horror into it’s own space, building on the icons that came before it, but also putting a bullet in the head of the complacency of the genre we see so often today.
See. This. Film.
RATING ………………. 5 STARS