Have you ever had that nagging feeling that someone is watching you, or coming after you, perhaps in a dream? Writer/director David Robert Mitchell experienced such a scenario in a recurring nightmare as a child, and he has parlayed that premise into one of the scariest horror films in years. "It Follows" is extraordinarily creepy, well constructed in minimalist style, and features a talented young cast. Outside of a few brief appearances by adults, most of the speaking parts are left to the teenagers, all the better to focus on their world of extreme angst.
The movie opens with a scantily clad young girl fleeing from her home at night, looking over her shoulder, apparently trying to elude something unseen. The sequence ends in grisly fashion, but it adequately sets the tone of dread for the rest of the film.
Later we meet Jay (Maika Monroe, "The Guest"), a pretty 19-year-old blond in a new relationship with an older boy named Hugh (Jake Weary). One night they have sex, but after Hugh chloroforms Jay, she awakens tied to a lawn chair in a garage. Hugh then explains that one reason he had sex with her was to rid himself of a menacing figure that has been following him. He explains that sexual intercourse is the only way to transfer this presence to someone else.
True to Hugh's word, Jay begins seeing things visible only to her, but she drags her friends Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Greg (Daniel Zovatto), along with her sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe), into the mystery. The rest of the movie is fraught with tension, as Mitchell opts for nuanced long takes to enhance the audience's anticipation of impending evil. The young cast is polished and credible. Monroe, particularly, is believable and sympathetic as the conflicted victim who must find a sex partner to rid her of the "thing".
Composer Rich Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpeace, has built a reputation providing music for video games. Here he imbues the story with an electronic score that is the eeriest this side of "Psycho". The first thing you're aware of in this thriller is his exceptionally bizarre music. It is as basic to "It Follows" as scores so critical to movies like "Jaws" and "The Ring".
The director understands that for a scary movie, less is more. Again and again, he positions his camera in situations where we expect something to jump off the screen at us. Sometimes that happens, other times it doesn't. We find ourselves almost desperately scanning the edges of the screen to forewarn us of an impending jolt.
This is only Mitchell's second feature film, after the highly praised, and very low budgeted ($30,000) "The Myth of the American Sleepover" (2010). He has established himself now as a filmmaker of great potential.
"It Follows" is a truly electrifying, even hair-raising horror film. But it doesn't rely on gore to jangle our nerves. It merely preys on our imagination.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!