The Birth of a Modern Horror Classic.
It’s a rare and beautiful thing when a new horror film arrives, without a fanfare of publicity, garners praise from the critics and is genuinely both original and frightening. At first glance, It follows – the story of a young girl who has a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, only to then find herself plagued with strange visions and an unsettling sense that something is following her – appears to have all the requisite elements of a standard teen horror. However, with David Robert Mitchell, the industry was excited and intrigued to see what he would do with the genre.
You may not know the name, but Mitchell is the independent director who caused a stir with his highly-acclaimed The Myth Of The American Sleepover when it premiered at the SXSW festival, Austin, Texas, in 2010. A hit with audiences & reviewers alike, it then played Cannes Critics Week, it’s ‘poetic depiction of teenage existence’ striking a chord and announcing Mitchell as one to watch. The news that his next project was to be a horror came as a surprise.
“I guess it wasn’t a big leap for me in my head,” Mitchell said of the transition. “I love horror movies. I want to make a lot of different movies and I like the idea of playing with genre. I thought that it would be interesting to take the tone of Myth and imagine characters with a similar feel to them, and put them into a scary situation and see how they would react. I tried to portray them with genuine qualities like those I tried to give the characters in Myth – I didn’t think, oh, because it’s a horror film that’s not necessary. I wanted them to be people that I cared about.”
A horror fan, Mitchell drew on his own experiences as a child to develop the script. He says:
“I remember having nightmares where something is following you, and in the nightmare it’s sort of slow and persistent. In the dream I was at the school playground. I looked over across the parking lot and saw this other kid walking towards me. Somehow I knew this was a monster. Then I started running away. I would run down a whole block and wait a moment, and then it would step out and keep walking towards me. It’s about the idea that something is consistently coming after you and it always knows where you are. The nightmare always sat with me. Somewhere as an adult I had the idea to build it into a film. I wrote it really quickly – it took about a week.”
The leading role of Jay was a challenging one for an actress, physically demanding with lots of emotional hysterics. Step forward Maika Monroe (Labor Day, The Guest).
“Maika read for the part and she was fantastic,” says Mitchell. “There was a vulnerability to her. There was a scene where my reaction to her was, ‘Oh my gosh, this poor girl.’ It went beyond what I put on the page. There was an intensity to her.”
Monroe says: “I was impressed with how he [Mitchell] spoke about the movie and how closely it touched him. When he sent over the information about what he wanted the Uilm to look like, I was blown away by how speciUic it all was, the details. I thought to myself, this guy is special. This guy is different from the rest. I was drawn to him and to the role.”
Highly stylised, the surreal, nightmarish atmosphere was key to the film.
“We wanted to create an environment where the camera wasn’t telling you where to look all the time,” Mitchell explains. “Where you would be scanning the edges of the frame looking for something. The camera is a little distant. We wanted to suggest to the audience that they should be looking a little in the distance, wondering what’s out there. The idea is that things are out there and we’re not going to shout to you when something dangerous is approaching. There’s definitely a dreamlike quality to it.”
Mitchell and his cinematographer Michael Gioulakis intensely prepared for during pre-production. From the opening shot onwards, the film is filled with many complex long takes that involve intricate camera movement.
“David and I were fortunate enough to have time before production to go through the entire script together, planning the way we wanted to cover each scene,” Gioulakis says. “We had about a dozen meetings over the course of a couple months. David would come into each meeting with rough storyboards that he had drawn with a clear vision of how he wanted to approach each scene. It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to sit down and really think in depth about the best way to convey the mood, perspective, and look we wanted for the Uilm. The goal for most of the visual approach was to play things in wider shots, finding interesting compositions, and letting the scene play out with minimal coverage.
“We wanted to convey a very distant, sterile feeling to the camerawork, trying as much as possible to lessen the audience’s perception of a human presence behind the lens. There’s a certain eeriness to these shots, which helps create the setting for the world of It Follows. These also serve as a counter to subjective moments where we are handheld with Jay. We felt swapping from the objective lens, to seeing from Jay’s perspective, would help to intensify some of the dramatic encounters with the ‘It.’”
With The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw saying of the film “I don’t think I have ever had a nightmare quite as scary as this film – a modern classic of fear to be compared to something by a young Carpenter or De Palma”, audiences now have the opportunity to experience this film for themselves as IT FOLLOWS opens in cinemas across the UK today, Friday 27th February 2015.