Three Reasons to Watch: It Follows
Every week, we pick a key film from the Curzon Home Cinema collection. This week, we explore modern teen life in America through the prism of a chilling supernatural thriller.
It’s summer in an ordinary America suburb. The streets are quiet and the last vestiges of sunlight cast a faint glow across the sky. Nothing appears amiss, yet an air of tension prevails. As a camera pans across houses on a leafy avenue, a girl dressed in high heels and little more than her underwear runs out into the road. She stands there, motionless, appearing to wait for something. Then, with a jolt, she continues running, circling across the road before diving back into her house, exiting moments later with a set of car keys. She gets in a car parked in the driveway, reverses out and, at speed, barrels down the unpopulated road. When we next see her…
What happens next is best left for you to discover. But this opening, executed with precision, tells you everything you need to know about David Robert Mitchell’s extraordinary second feature. Having already proven his skill at rejuvenating the youth movie with The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010), here Roberts takes pleasure in exploring a staple landscape of US cinema: small town Americana.
We’ve seen it in movies from Frank Capra and Douglas Sirk to David Lynch and Richard Linklater; in the wholesomeness of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), the horror of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and the comedy-drama of Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister (2011). What Roberts takes from Carpenter’s genre-defining slasher is a controlled approach to increasing tension with each scene.
After the shock of the opening, we return to more familiar territory of two teens getting it on in the back of a car. But Roberts once again pulls the rug from under our feet when it comes to the boy’s actions. It’s only in the subsequent scene that the teen’s motivations become clear and we understand why the girl in the film’s prologue was so terrified.
It’s better not to know what the story is about. (The subtext is a sly and smart parody of conservative values and sex outside marriage.) But just as Babak Anvari’s Tehran-set Djinn chiller Under the Shadows (2016) proved there is still so much to be explored through the premise of the haunted house narrative, It Follows pretty much reinvents both the stalker genre and the teen horror film. Moreover, Robert has produced a visually dazzling feast whose images not only recall the rot-beneath-the-veneer aesthetic of Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), but draw on the photographic style of acclaimed American artist Gregory Crewdson.
In the same way that Todd Haynes channelled Saul Leiter’s 1950s colour photography for his near-perfect Patricia Highsmith adaptation Carol (2015), Roberts approaches the iconography of the American suburbs with a style comparable to Crewdson (particularly the photographer’s beautiful and unsettling 2005 collection Beneath the Roses). What Roberts achieves with such a carefully constructed visual style, in addition to his pitch-perfect writing and the uniformly excellent performances, adds to the strangeness of It Follows’ all-too-familiar yet otherworldly environment.
Three reasons to watch It Follows
Scene 1: the opening. It you’re a ‘I want it to say what it is on the can’ kind of person, you can’t get a better idea of what lies in store with this film than the stunning opening three minutes. Like the famous prologue in Halloween, you’ll know whether this is for you right from the outset.
Scene 2: the bedroom sequence. If you’re sat anywhere that might stain easily, make sure you’re not holding a drink when the bedroom scene arrives. Nothing will prepare you for the utter strangeness of this sequence.
Scene 3: the swimming pool scene. This doesn’t just rank as one of the best teen swimming pool sequences, it completely undermines everything that came before. It manages to be absurdly funny, weirdly grotesque and terrifying all at once.
It Follows is available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema