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It Follows (TIFF Review)

It Follows (TIFF Review)
09.05.2014by: Chris Bumbray
8 10

PLOT: After a violent sexual encounter, a young woman (Maika Monroe) finds herself plagued by a deadly curse.

REVIEW: When you see as many horror movies as I do, it's pretty easy to get desensitized to even the roughest batch of chillers. By a certain point, you've seen it all, or so you think. Then, totally out of the blue, a movie like IT FOLLOWS comes along and kicks your ass.

A horror flick is only as good as its hook, but IT FOLLOWS has a beauty. The best chillers are often chock-full of metaphors, and the curse that plagues Monroe's character Jay, is transmitted sexually. Basically, it's the absolute worst STD you could think of. This makes herpes look like a mild inconvenience.

The aforementioned hook is this – once Jay is infected with the curse, a ghostly spirit only she can see starts walking towards her. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, it'll always know where she is. It's easy to outrun, but it's indestructible and inevitably will kill her. The only way she can get rid of it is to pass it on to someone else, but if they get killed by it, it will turn its attentions back to her and so on straight down the line to its original victim.

Now, this may not sound like too scary a hex, but it's ultra freaky. The combination of sexual subtext and how the constant threat of an attack is almost worse than the attack itself is extremely unsettling. Monroe's fragile performance as a formerly carefree teen turned mental basket-case puts her on the map in a big way. Between this and her work in another Midnight Madness title at TIFF – THE GUEST (read my review) she's seems on the verge of breaking out on a big way. She's tremendous.

Even more so is the direction by David Robert Mitchell, who gives this an almost art-house vibe, mixed with a retro-eighties look and an amazing synth-soundtrack that sounds like a cross between Vangellis and John Carpenter. Mitchell does a brilliant job ratcheting up the terror throughout the film, and by the time the end credits rolled I was almost feeling queasy from how on edge I had been during the last act of the film. Mitchell also gives this a lot of heart, with Jay being surrounded by a likable group of friends who try to help her, as well as a few guys, including a childhood friend played by Keir Gilchrist, who would be happy to have her pass along the curse to him if it meant making love to her. Lucky for him, Monroe's character has a strong moral code that makes this curse all but impossible to pass on.

IT FOLLOWS will likely become a big-time horror sleeper once Radius (who acquired the rights out of Cannes) puts it out, and if you can see this on the big screen that would be all the better. It's a tremendous horror flick and the scariest film I've seen in years. It's deeply, deeply unsettling.

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