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Fantastic Fest capsule review: It Follows

Staff Writer
Austin 360

This buzzworthy horror story from David Robert Mitchell (who wrote and directed) is an unlikely follow-up to his previous feature, 2010’s “The Myth of the American Sleepover.”

The film fades in to the confounding sight of a young woman named Annie, dressed only in lingerie and high heels, running out of the front porch of a home screaming at the top of her lungs. Her father approaches the door, yelling for her, but she loops back inside just long enough to grab a pair of car keys and hit the road. A few moments later, we graphically discover that we’re not going to be following Annie’s story, but somebody (or something) was definitely following her.

Our lead character instead turns out to be a 19-year-old girl named Jay (Maika Monroe, who also stars in “The Guest” at Fantastic Fest this week). She lives a normal suburban life in Detroit in what appears to be the 1980s, although the presence of one character with a modern electronic device leaves the actual time period vague. After deciding to sleep with her new boyfriend Hugh, everything changes for Jay. Turns out, the entity that was chasing Annie in the opening sequence of the film has been after Hugh as well. He’s learned that the only way to get rid of it is to have sex with somebody else and “pass” it on to the new target.

This premise is simultaneously simple and wildly complex, as the “it” creature of the film’s title can take the form of any person, but has one strange restriction. It never even approaches the brisk pace of a mall walker, so if Jay can run and then drive away, it buys her some time to craft a plan before being followed yet again. All we find out about them is that if they catch up to you and touch you, you’ll die.

Despite some pacing issues, the success of the film is largely thanks to its solid young cast (including Keir Gilchrist from “The United States of Tara”) and the film’s detailed and thoughtful set design coupled with the stunning widescreen framing of cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (“John Dies at the End”).

“It Follows” manages to incorporate some cleverly original elements at the same time that it pays homage to classic films like “Halloween.” The film delivers on a handful of legitimate scares and is, at times, overwhelmingly creepy.

“It Follows” plays again at 11:30 p.m. Sept. 24.