By Jake Howell

The Torontonian reviews It Follows

f9e3029b8cade0793e6c3d738ddfa8f2One of the most enjoyable aspects of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows—alongside its brilliant cinematography and chilling scares—is the inventive premise, which is as much to fun to describe as it is to watch (tell your friends about the “sexually-transmitted ghost” movie and watch their faces turn from disgusted to wildly amused).

Also appearing in The Guest, another Midnight Madness film at TIFF, Maika Monroe plays Jay, a girl living in Detroit suburbia with her friends and family. Jay’s a typical American girl that likes to go on dates to the movies, and the boy she’s currently seeing is the strong and silent type. They haven’t, well—y’know—yet, but after a bizarre detour and a casual dinner, they finally go somewhere private and get down to business.

Moments after having sex with this dude, Jay is introduced to the “rules” of It Follows: she’s now the target for a haunting spectre that can take many forms—an old woman, a naked girl, a lumbering giant—and will now relentlessly walk towards her until it sees her dead. If it kills her, it will then go up the chain and begin to haunt the person Jay most recently had sex with—in this case, the beau from earlier—making this movie a terrifying game of sexual hot potato. It’s an idea that’s high-concept and low-budget.

Other horror films have ghouls that are more agile than what stalks Jay in It Follows—or faster, for that matter—but Mitchell uses the slow-and-steady ghost premise to chilling effect. In one of the film’s most unsettling scenes, Mitchell sets his camera on a panoramic 360-degree tripod and spins around the hallways of a school as Jay rifles through some yearbook archives to find out who it actually is she just had sex with (her mysterious suitor was not who he said he was, it seems). As the camera repeatedly cycles around, we through a window both a field teeming with people and a hallway with students, but is the ghost outside or in the school? Because Mitchell opts for master shots in establishing his environments, there’s a lot of fun in trying to spot the apparition in his backgrounds, and this scene is one of the creepiest examples of this approach.

In terms of character motivations and oh-my-god-you-know-that’s-a-bad-idea, sure—there are a number of genre clichés and plot holes here, but the film is far too pretty to look at for those things to really matter (and yes, Mitchell answers the glaring question of “why don’t they just hire a prostitute?”). With excellently eerie lighting and an adherence to wide angles, we get a great sense of how even open areas like a park or a beach can remain claustrophobic—especially when you always have to look over your shoulder. There’s also a synth-heavy score by Disasterpeace that adds a thumping presence of dread behind every sequence, and the result is something original and really frightening.



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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon