Why David Robert Mitchell's "It Follows" might just be the horror movie of the decade

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"Why smart horror is putting the fear into sequel-addicted Hollywood"

Any horror movie fan you talk to will tell you that the last decade has been incredible for horror movies. What’s the deal? Well firstly, everything that’s coming out seems to be directed by filmmakers that know their horror, cinephiles in fact. These are creatives that are allergic to clich├ęs. The genre was in dire need of new blood, and we found it with new talented directors that seemed to be inspired by the works of John Carpenter, Stanley Kubrick, and David Cronenberg. 
These new original voices know the secret formula that many great horror movies have used in the past: cast a female in the lead. In horror movies, the female lead doesn’t need to be weak; in fact, she can be strong. Very strong. Usually the last “man” standing. I remember writing a term paper in film school years ago about how women in horror advanced the cause of feminism in our society. Who can forget Ripley in “Alien” saying, “This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off”, or in the movie’s sequel seven years later uttering the kickass line, “Get away from her, you bitch”. If one looks back at film history they will notice a rich history of women in the lead role: “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Shining”, “The Exorcist”, “The Ring”, “Halloween”, “Psycho”, “Suspira”, “Alien”, and “The Birds”, just to name a few.
The genre was rejuvenated with a few films, but especially “The Babadook” – a smart, snappy, and darkly twisted tale that dealt with death, mourning and the matriarchal role. The main character was of course female (Essie Davis), but here’s the kicker: so was the filmmaker, the promising Jennifer Kent. It was an original, refreshing change of pace to a genre that was, for the last decade or so, more interested in the same old boring ideas about the male psyche. Kent reinvigorated the game and “The Babadook” was a major success – one that will likely spark a new wave of horror filmmakers to one up it.
Of course, Robert Eggers' "The Witch"  is another such reinvention. I saw the film at Sundance 2015 and then at TIFF again that very same year. Suffice to say, I knew this spine-tingler was a movie event.  Eggers’ haunting and spooky film wasn't your typical horror movie. More artsy than gory. More interested in building up dread within its spooky atmosphere. I couldn't have liked it more because of that. I was astonished this was his first film. He directed it in such an assured, effective, veteran-like way. 

The indie horror movement has become a sort of reinvention of the genre. Take for example, Fede Alvarez' "Don't Breathe" which has the content and quality to become a cult classic of the genre. The film, a tightly knit and terrifying treat to watch, has to do with three thieves trying to break into a blind war veteran's home to steal a cool million dollars in cash. Not only does the plan fail, but it turns out the blind war vet is quite capable of taking care of himself. It makes for a claustrophobic film. 80% of the film takes places in the man's Detroit home. A labyrinthine thriller that reminded me of another genre-exercise, Jeremy Saulnier's "Green Room," in terms of hard-edged technical prowess, it's as masterfully executed as Saulnier's grim B-movie. It really turns the screws on the suspense, and action.

The best 'movie-movie' of all the films mentioned here might be "Get Out," which had Chris Washington, a young African-American male (Daniel Kaluuya) meeting the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) for a weekend in their posh, but the secluded cottage. The old adage of trust none of what you heard and even less of what you see is put to full-throttle here. Don’t expect “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” speechifying, at least not in the hands of first-time director Jordan Peele, one-half of the comedic duo Key and Peele, who has the time of his life messing with our heads his horror-satire “Get Out.” The clever film packed plenty of tension was the most fun I had in a movie theater all year, but it also found a way to skewer and make critical insights about the race relations in America. “Get Out” wasn’t just a horror comedy, but it was filled with political fireworks that made it a lot more nuanced and thought-provoking than your average B-movie flick.  The film was refreshingly incisive for its stab at the white liberal and conservative elite. Something you don’t see much in the media or at the movies these days. Peele was smart enough to skewer all of white America and demand they wake up to the elephant in the room. Hypocrisy seems to be the name of the game and “Get Out” was the most relevant movie of last year.

But there's a film that I believe might be the best horror movie of the decade: David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows.” The film refuses to follow the conventions of 21st-century horror cinema. Its DNA is ingrained in and inspired by the classics. Just when you thought there wasn’t really much more room to maneuver creatively within the genre, Mitchell delivers this stunning movie. Having opened just last week, the film is already a hit with critics. After it’s sly, subtle bows at the most prestigious of film fests last year (Cannes, TIFF, Sundance) and the most glowing of reviews (check out that 96% RT score), audiences will likely soon discover what most festival goers already knew: this movie is the real deal. A blend of the surreal with the very real. A taste of the next generation of horror movies to come.
Much like “The Babadook”, the story’s main character is female and the implications are more psychological than gore-tastic – a relief if you ask me. Dealing with 19 year-old Maika Monroe who loses her virginity and is later told by the same guy that he has passed on a curse to her that will follow and haunt her everywhere she goes, the film is imprinted with ridiculously clever undertones. The only way for our main protagonist to get rid of this “disease” she has inherited is to sleep with someone else and pass it on to them. Oh boy. Here comes a slew of film school term papers for the next decade about the film’s allegorical connection to STDs. Those sly open-minded students wouldn’t be far off in their theories, but there’s much more to “It Follows” than just its fascinating dissection of STDs and teenage sexuality.
Every scene in Mitchell’s film is filled with unbearable dread, bringing to mind early John Carpenter just by its synth-driven musical score, courtesy of the brilliant Disasterpiece. The jump scares are also frighteningly timed, all thanks to Julio C Perez IV’s editing and the dreamy atmosphere Mitchell creates on-screen. Scene after scene, the viewer is engulfed in an inescapable sexual nightmare, and just when you think the film will unfold in a conventional way, Mitchell pulls the rug under you and slaps your face sideways. Just like the classic movies it has been inspired by, “It Follows” is inescapably eerie. 
For now, these are the twenty best horror movies of the decade:

(1) It Follows (2) Get Out (3) The Witch  (4) Black Swan (5) The Invitation (6) 10 Cloverfield Lane (7) Hush (8) Don't Breathe (9) The Wailing (10) Attack the Block (11) Lights Out (12) Raw (13) Sinister (14) Green Room (15) Sinister (16) It (17) The Guest (18) You're Next (19) The Woman In Black (20) Shutter Island