It Follows

By Kelan Young

Mailed on April 02, 2015

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Dear Mike Lanier

Dear Mike,

Another director might have used your initial onscreen appearance as the “Giant Man” in It Follows as an opportunity for a cheap jolt, perhaps offering a piece of direction like: “Run at the camera and make scary faces!” But instead, as a beleaguered young woman attempts to convince a gang of her friends that the titular It really does exist, you emerge silently from the shadows of the hallway and slowly brush past them in single-minded pursuit of our heroine.

It’s a chilling moment, and it’s heightened by the fact that only those who have been targeted by It are able to see it. No matter where she goes, despite the best efforts of her friends, ur heroine Jay is facing this evil alone.

Director David Robert Mitchell clearly has a firm grasp on how important understatement is when it comes to crafting an effective scare sequence. This movie isn’t about big, in-your-face frights (though there certainly are moments that are genuinely hair-raising); instead, the film operates on the same level of dread that makes classic zombie films effective. Even though the primary threat is slow and seems to be easily escapable, there is always the underlying possibility that sooner or later you’ll tire or make a mistake and eventually be overtaken.

In that vein, Mitchell’s approach of having you and the other actors who portray the various iterations of It move in a very controlled, assured manner goes a long way towards establishing the antagonist(s) of It Follows as one of the scariest cinematic monsters in years.

Additionally, he is able to build nearly impossible-to-endure levels of suspense through the use of a 360-degree rotating camera that is perpetually giving the impression that the creature might, at any moment, enter the frame from any direction. This also allows for several nice moments of humour when random passersby are mistaken for It.

Perhaps the film's greatest strength is a steadfast refusal to explain away the central threat. This withholding of exposition works beautifully. Sure, there are some consistent rules by which Itoperates – such as transmission through sexual intercourse and having a physical form that can even be injured – but everything else is left in the dark, and the movie is all the better for it. There’s a primal level of fear that comes with knowing something is coming to kill you—even if it’s moving very slowly. You don't know why, and nothing you can do – reasoning with it or standing your ground – will work in the end. As one character puts it, the only real option is to run far away and buy yourself just a little more time. That is genuine horror.

Not that I would want you to be typecast as giant men (are you really that tall, by the way?), but if your few seconds of screen presence in It Follows is any indication, I certainly hope you show up in future genre exercises. And I hope those directors know how to use you as well as David Robert Mitchell does here.



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