It’s not often you get to find a major new horror film at its world premiere, but David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows took the Cannes Film Festival quite by surprise at its debut in the Critics’ Week sidebar. Proudly wearing its genre credentials on its sleeve – many, many '80s horror boxes are ticked – Mitchell’s film aspires to more than mere homage, creating genuinely frightening images that will haunt even the most seasoned horror fan’s nightmares for a long time. And if it can do that, just imagine the mental scarring it will do to America’s horny teens.
Hooking into the adolescent fears of John Carpenter’s Halloween – clearly Mitchell’s blueprint, right down to the film’s thudding electronic score – It Follows is fundamentally a film about sex. After a short, unsettling prelude, in which a girl runs screaming from her house, only to meet her fate in a grisly off-screen attack, the film starts to focus on pretty 19 year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), who is on a date with her bit-of-rough new boyfriend Hugh. All is not what it seems, however, and what starts as a trip to the cinema ends most unpleasantly, while Jay arriving back home in tears.
Obviously there’s more to it than that, but It Follows is a film that starts with a genuinely unsettling premise and mines it for true horror rather than just jumps and starts. This being only Mitchell’s second film, after 2010's The Myth Of The American Sleepover, there are certain pacing issues, and the budget constraints show at times, but these are small gripes.
Horror is a hard genre to tackle, and Mitchell has achieved something much more experienced directors have tried to do and failed. Not only will it get under your skin, It Follows, like all good horror movies, is really about something else. But let’s talk about that once you’ve seen it...