For Reel


It Follows (2014)
April 2, 2015, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Robert Mitchell
4.5 Stars
It FollowsThe second encounter that Jay (Maika Monroe) has with It (her first being her wheelchair-bound introduction to the acquired condition) is a departure from many horror conventions in that it occurs in broad daylight and in public. While sitting in class, she notices an old woman walking towards her from across the campus. With this scene, director David Robert Mitchell conditions the audience for the way that he wants them to watch the film. Often, the threat occurs in the background of a shot and it goes unacknowledged for a few brief moments before both the characters and the filmmaking (that is, the use of editing and/or music to elevate the tension) acknowledge the presence. While horror films often create suspense by preying on the viewer’s anticipation that something will occur in the “empty” space of a shot, Mitchell’s approach is absolutely relentless in that he demands one’s awareness of the entire frame. It is perhaps this very dynamic that makes It Follows so effectively frightening and, moreover, that gives the film its lasting impact. The very filmmaking encourages a certain paranoia, making even the moments between the biggest scares carry an added dread. And that our awareness of creeping death is mirrored by the film’s young adults confronting mortality for the first time is what really makes the film something special.



The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)
December 19, 2011, 4:04 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Robert Mitchell

In deconstructing, as the title asserts, The Myth of the American Sleepover, first-time director David Robert Mitchell doesn’t arrive at naturalism, but at a sort of mystic emotional truth about what it is to be a teenager. In his review of the film, A.O. Scott suggests that the picture articulates the, “mixture of sophistication and naïveté that is central to the modern American teenage way of being in the world.” Indeed, the teenagers here are confused in the way that they approach love and lust, not at all comfortable in their own skin and, although horny, perhaps not as sexually-driven as, for instance, the protagonists of Superbad. Like Putty Hill, another stand-out independent film from this past year, Mitchell’s characters, taken on their own, don’t necessarily feel specific enough to reflect anyone that we may have known in high school, but as a collective they create a community that seems, in some, undefinable way, wholly recognizable. In fact, in dispelling the myths of teen pictures like Dazed and Confused or American Graffiti, Mitchell creates a myth of his own that feels true to the high school experience – the “super market girl” becomes a figure of worship, so far removed from objective authenticity that we begin to approach her just as her admirer does, without condescension and feeling the grandeur of the stakes when they finally confront. In granting his characters tremendous emotional complexity without losing sight of their endearing innocence, Mitchell’s take on this oft-treaded ground feels entirely fresh.