It Follows ****

by Andres Solar

Very fun -- and scary -- horror movie with a clever premise

Is it worth $10? Yes

The intriguing, thoroughly enjoyable thriller-horror hybrid "It Follows," by young Michigan native David Robert Mitchell ("The Myth of the American Sleepover" [2010]), follows 19 year-old Jay (Maika Monroe, "Labor Day" [2013]) as she's followed by someone or something hellbent on killing her and others due to its inexplicable, capricious, coital-arithmetical compulsion. Jay and her friends are a close-knit bunch, growing up together and now residing in suburban Detroit. Writer-director Mitchell has them watching television on ‘60s sets, driving ‘70s cars, and wearing ’80s-style clothes. The anachronisms of the production design give the film a pleasantly off-kilter touch.

It's crucial to understand that this movie is creepy-scary and sometimes shocking-scary, but never does it fall into the modern horror-movie formula of violence-pause-more violence. Feel, mood, atmosphere: These are the things Mitchell does best.

Deftly managing the languages of light and color, he is aided by Mike Gioulakis' ("Camp X-Ray" [2014]) brilliant, gorgeous cinematography. "It Follows" feels so organic in part due to a smart variety of camera mountings, including handheld, standard and improvised tracks, rotating tripod, and Steadicam. Delicate, patient camera pans give way to wise, wordless close-ups that convey characters' feelings or symbolize a dynamic element of the proceedings. Jay's foot digs deeply into the sand, urgently slowing her pendulum movement on a swingset, in a Hitchcock-style shot. The camera holds tight on a wispy, delicate flower toyed playfully by a delicate hand.

There's a broad understanding here of the greatest of fears--fear of the unknown. So, while Jay floats peacefully, languidly in the backyard pool, an electric, pulse-pounding suspense permeates each shot and lingers defiantly in the ethers. It's not only through cues from the score, it's by fact of having previously witnessed the results of unspeakable brutality.

Mitchell is sensitive to context, so he juxtaposes a gruesome sight near the beginning of the movie with the soft sand of a beach and waves lapping at the shore. Bodies of water are a theme here, with Mitchell using them for quiet contrasts against underlying tension and for the immersion of intense action (a natatorium is the setting for a splashy pivotal scene). Swimming pools, wading pools, the ocean; all possessing elements of vulnerability and subconscious psychosexuality.

Lest you get the impression that "It Follows" is overly brainy, though, note that it all comes off seemingly effortlessly. Mitchell is so self-assured that his psychological thriller always feels hip, funky, and original. Relative newcomer Rich Vreeland's synthesizer score is also retro-stylized and easily the best of the year so far. Acting here is well-above average and across-the-board perfect for the director's purposes.

"It Follows" is the type of movie that demands to be seen during its theatrical run on the biggest screen with the best sound system available. This is invigorating, artful, tremendously fun cinema. It's rare to find such massive talent in a genuine popcorn-spilling, refreshing treat.

Andres Solar reviews new fare with an emphasis on art house and indie for Punch Drunk Movies. He would love to see Burt Reynolds in another Paul Thomas Anderson movie but understands that it probably “Ain’t gonna happen.”

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