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IT FOLLOWS ****

From the Devil's Advocates series. Written by Joshua Grimm.

RRP: £9.99 94pp

Out now from Auteur Publishing.

 

Although it’s only five years old, David Robert Mitchell’s IT FOLLOWS has already entered the canon of horror greats, emerging as part of the recent “horror movie renaissance of smart, frightening films that have rejuvenated the genre”, alongside the likes of YOU’RE NEXT, THE BABADOOK and GET OUT. It arrived without fanfare, and was originally intended to head straight to VOD after a token two week stretch in cinemas, but it actually went on to gross nearly 17 times its $1.3 million budget and achieved wide critical acclaim. Now, in this new release from the DEVIL’S ADVOCATES series that examines the classics of horror cinema, the fittingly named Joshua Grimm looks at why this particularly chilling film resonates as much as it does.

 

Grimm provides thoughtful in-depth textual analyses of key scenes and uses his knowledge of horror cinema to focus on the distinct techniques that Mitchell utilises to create fear.  We also get plenty of quotes direct from Mitchell himself, furthering our insight in to his process and inspirations. Specific attention is paid to the 360 degree camera pans used throughout the movie that Grimm asserts provide audiences with “a unique glimpse into the experiences of the potential victims”, allowing you to join them in their struggle to identify the threat in a “morbid version of WHERE’S WALLY?”. He also highlights Mitchell’s conscious decision to deliberately avoid dating the piece by including technology from a variety of eras which creates a timeless, otherworldly feel. Grimm’s intelligent exploration of these techniques gave me a new found appreciation for the skilful film making in a film that I had already enjoyed.

 

A particularly enlightening chapter was the one in which Grimm examines the evil ‘entity’ at the heart of the film, the titular ‘it’ that’s been doing the following. He raises the fact that it “pulls its qualities from the supernatural, zombies and slashers-three of the largest, most sustainable subgenres in all of horror”. It has the ambling gait and uncommunicative nature of a zombie, the dogged determination to pursue promiscuous teens taken from a typical slasher, and the vague origin and shape shifting powers of something supernatural. Interestingly, Grimm also notes that “everything that the entity does is hamstrung-to some extent-by rules of reality […] several times in the film we see the entity stymied by physical barriers”. I knew I found ‘it’ creepy but Grimm’s exploration goes a good way to explaining why this was in ways that I had not previously considered.

 

Grimm also discusses how the film can be viewed as a typical teen coming-of-age story where “scenes serve as romantic short stories before being rudely interrupted by a horror movie happening around them” and he praises Mitchell’s “ability to capture the natural cadence of teen interaction”. It’s even argued that IT FOLLOWS could be seen as the nightmare inversion of Mitchell’s previous film, the actual coming of age drama, THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER.

 

Grimm rounds out the book by positing that IT FOLLOWS saw the birth of a new horror character archetype; the “Only Girl” which “captures the current zeitgeist of female empowerment”.  It’s an interesting conceit but I feel that for it to catch on as an enduring critical term Grimm needed a more extensive exploration of other “Only Girl” types in current horror. I didn’t see too much of a difference in his definition between this and the typical slasher ‘Final Girl’ trope that he’s arguing it’s evolved from. It got me thinking though, which is always a positive for a book like this!

 

Overall, this is an intelligently argued critical dissection of a modern horror classic. I would definitely recommend it to fans of IT FOLLOWS as it presents interesting new ways to look at the film, and it’s also a handy textbook for those studying horror cinema, but it is perhaps a little too academic for just a casual horror fan. It’s also simply nice to see a genre film as relatively recent as this getting serious critical attention now rather than having to wait a couple of decades before it’s truly appreciated.

 

Reviewed by John Upton.

 

 

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IT FOLLOWS ****

This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018