David Robert Mitchell had an auspicious debut in 2010 when his first feature The Myth Of The American Sleepover, which he wrote and directed, premiered at SXSW and then went on to play Cannes Critics’ Week. Set in a seemingly timeless world, neither past nor present, Myth resonated with critics and audiences as a poetic depiction of teenage existence, in all its confusions and yearnings. The independent film world was understandably surprised and excited when it was announced that Mitchell’s sophomore project would be a horror film.
It Follows is indeed terrifying at times, but it’s unmistakably a product of the same mind as Myth. “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.” The characters in It Follows – all teenagers – feel notably akin to their precursors from Myth. Jay (Maika Monroe) is a college student living in the suburbs of Detroit. She has a close group of friends, including Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Paul (Keir Gilchrist), and her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), all of whom will become endangered after Jay starts being followed by a nefarious supernatural presence of unknown origin.
The germinating idea of the film – of Jay being followed, slowly but consistently, by a monster – came from nightmares Mitchell had as a child. “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.” Mitchell is an admirer of horror cinema, and as the film came together he and his key crew immersed themselves in numerous standbys of the genre. “I was watching Rosemary’s Baby,
The Shining, some Cronenberg. Halloween, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Blue Velvet, Eyes Without A Face, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Those are things I was looking at. There’s also a little Hitchcock influence in terms of how we used subjective point of view. There were also some photographers whose work we looked at like Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido.” As It Follows began to come together, Mitchell was tasked with Finding the actress to play Jay, an incredibly demanding role that necessitated lots of physical strength and emotional hysterics. He found his leading lady in Maika Monroe, who in recent years has appeared in At Any Price, Labor Day, and The Guest. “Maika read for the part and she was fantastic,” Mitchell related. “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.” For Monroe, trusting Mitchell was easy due to his commitment to executing his vision for the film. “I was impressed with how he spoke about the movie and how closely it touched him. When he sent over the information about what he wanted the film to look like, I was blown away by how specific 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.”
Released and Distributed by Captive Cinema, “It Follows” is coming to theaters nationwide on May 13, 2015.