Detroit-made 'It Follows' spectacularly creepy

Tom Long
The Detroit News
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"It Follows" is the creepiest movie in years.

And it will probably seem even creepier for denizens of Metro Detroit, because it looks like it's happening right down the street.

That's because it is. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell shot his horror film in southeastern Michigan, where he grew up, and — as he did with his previous film, "The Myth of the American Sleepover" — he captures the red brick, ranch-and-colonial look of so many suburban streets with uncanny accuracy.

From raised backyard swimming pools to neighborhood parks, abandoned houses in Detroit to looming public edifices, Mitchell takes it all in. But this time he's not simply following normal teens as they buzz and bounce through the night; this time he has something far more twisted in mind.

It begins with Jay (budding scream queen Maika Monroe), a pretty blond teen who's been dating Hugh (Jake Weary), a guy she recently met. After the two make love one night in his car, he does something surprising — he ties her to a wheelchair in an abandoned building and together they wait.

Something's coming.

And come it does, a semi-naked woman staggering forward. At first Jay and Hugh see her at a distance, but she keeps coming, headed right for them.

Hugh explains: It will be coming for Jay now that they've had sex. He has passed the curse on to Jay, all she has to do is have sex with another guy and she'll pass the curse on to him. But if it gets to her future lover and kills him, it will then revert back to Jay. And if it kills Jay, it will begin following Hugh again.

It can, and does, look like anyone — an old woman, a drowned child, a giant man. And it is relentless. "It's slow, but it's not stupid!" Hugh tells Jay before dropping the shaken girl off at home.

At first Jay is skeptical. But when she sees a woman in a nightgown crossing the grounds at her school and then coming down a hallway for her, she realizes It is real.

Unfortunately, It is also invisible to everyone but Jay, so her friends think she's losing it. Still they band together and drive her to the country, taking refuge in a neighbor's lake house.

Guess what? It follows.

Set a monster in a castle in Transylvania and you've got a situation-appropriate environment; set a monster on what look like sleepy-safe, tree-lined hometown streets and things quickly get too close for comfort. And when the monster itself is changing appearances scene-to-scene, it's hard to know what you're even looking for.

Monsters and mayhem have been linked with sexuality for time immemorial, of course, and there's much about "It Follows" — including it's synthi score — that harkens back to John Carpenter's "Halloween." But here it's even more like the bogey man has walked into a Norman Rockwell painting, and there's an essential innocence to Jay that doesn't match up with most slasher victims.

Mitchell throws in plenty of quirks, as he did in "Myth." There are few or no cell phones or computers or mention of social media (wouldn't someone try to Google It?), although one of Jay's friends reads books on some sort of handheld compact device. Literary quotes are tossed in out of seeming nowhere and adults are rarely present.

One apparent desperate ploy of Jay's is too vague for the film's good, and a teen love triangle isn't really needed, but it doesn't really matter: It just keeps coming, from any angle, at any time. It's spectacularly unnerving. It's supposed to be — especially since it's happening in our own backyard.

'It Follows'


Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language

Running time: 100 minutes

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