I was positively intrigued and eager about this film from the first trailer viewing and after working out the third and final clue from the Odeon Screen Unseen series, I got more excited knowing it would be this movie. The American horror is presented with style and smooth shots and a fantastic soundtrack drums into you like a demonic earworm filling you with dread, but by the end it didn’t fully live up to expectations.
Jay (Maika Monroe) begins dating a guy named Hugh (Jake Weary) and after their first sexual encounter he enlightens her that he’s passed a curse upon her. One that means she will be followed by someone only she can see and worse than that, they are out to kill her. The only possible way to battle these evil visions is passing on the curse.
David Robert Mitchell directs with a clear vision, presenting his indie like horror with a look that feels recognisable. He has the wide shots and sweeping 360 degree camera movements to build unshakable tension, he utilises the stalker genre and mixes it neatly with ghostly goings on. Mitchell may or not be a fan of John Carpenter but the film certainly comes at you with that ‘Halloween’ glean. Suburban streets, chilling off camera potential scares and a persistent stalker all fit into that realm and it pays off in going back to old school torment and playing down gore and over egged paranormal activities.
It must be said that Rich Vreeland’s composed work gives the film the cool edge it needs. I believe that without it, then it would have been a totally different and lesser piece of movie-making. The score too feels like it’s echoing the Carpenter effect of pulsating electronic piano clinks. It’s an extremely synth heavy soundtrack and it gives the film a sort of 80’s feel which works in its favour more often than not, even if every now and then a certain track plays in and feels repetitive. On the whole Vreeland does masterfully well in mixing suspense and a synthesised atmosphere into the production.
The film begins losing its way, sadly, as Mitchell’s script stretches to a point of uncertainty. Moments that could have been scarier never arrive and though others in the cinema did jump, I didn’t, it had the potential, like ‘The Babadook’ to be filled with more scares but instead it begins treading down an odd teen filled route of sex, friendship and tackling the spirit stalker. One scene feels like a grand moment of building to a climax and then the film just keeps on going which is when it falls more apart. The ending can be interpreted in different ways I guess, but it doesn’t feel right after the strong and skillful first two thirds.
The main theme of exploring sex and promiscuity is done really nicely to be honest and it’s refreshing to see this human desire portrayed in a horror film, not just offing the horny couple at the beginning of a classic horror slasher, but dealing with the knowledge that sleeping with someone could save your life. It’s a fun idea to toy around with and it never sounds that silly actually. It’s an eerie and thoughtful combination to include in a stalker horror and it gives this movie a cool adult core running through its centre. The follower itself is alluded to in different times very well too, visuals helping you piece together the identity as it goes along. I’ll say no more as not to ruin the whole thing.
Maika Monroe returns after the other brilliantly scored small scaled horror ‘The Guest’ and does even more proving herself as a great talent to keep an eye on. The glances she gives as she herself keeps an eye on who could be following her are filled with fear but there’s something in her performance that makes her more than just a dreary pathetic scream queen. She goes on a journey learning herself and how to react to this stalker. Keir Gilchrist is another great young actor to watch as his portrayal of friend Paul sees him subtly coping with feelings for Jay.
It may weaken in the story progression and a lack of scares combined with a slowing sense of pace stop it from being out and out brilliant, but it’s different, stylishly choreographed, creepy and lingering in the provocative horrifying central message surrounding Jay’s life. A quite unsettling tense film.