It Follows (2014)
Once in a blue moon, a horror film comes along with a simple, universal and powerful idea that doesn't feel like a rehash of every other film in the genre. It hasn't happened often in the last few decades, but let me mention Wan/Whannell's Saw from 2004 and Tomas Alfredsson's Låt den rätte komma in from 2008 as other recent examples. It Follows, written, filmed and conceived by David Robert Mitchell on a moderate budget, may well be the best American horror film in this millennium.
First of all, It Follows has that all-important basic premise which is both timeless and universal; Mitchell cleverly mixes the fear of sexually transmitted diseases into his version of a personal demon, and then understands one decisive thing about human fear: that the threat of violence and death makes a more profound impression on us than actual representations of the same. Because Mitchell isn't out to disgust or shock us here; he's out to scare us, both viscerally and intellectually.
Secondly, the director is able to follow-up his good idea with effective and economical choices of what to shoot and what to cut, which makes the story not only tight enough, but also ensures that his meanderings in the supernatural stay just close enough to our sense of reality. He never gets overboard, never gets in his own way, and he has the guts to trust his own script and concept enough not to resort to cheap effects or easy payoffs. Although the story as such is simplistic in essence, the implications and possible readings can be intricate in the eye of the beholder, and Mitchell gives us the opportunity to play them out. His direction is elegant and refined.
The only tool Mitchell uses to excess is his musical score, which at times borders on counterproductive. When it doesn't, however, it is effective in the same harrowing, aggressive way that John Carpenter's best musical scores were. It substantiates the ever-present, but often unrepresented threat that our protagonist Jay is haunted by, thus creating an interface between the calm surface populated with people living their lives as usual, and the internal (and to some degree external) chaos Jay experiences. This is minimalist filmmaking at its most effective, and in contrast to most horror filmmakers with a good premise, Mitchell rows this boat gently and teasingly ashore with full confidence. It Follows is a future classic in the making.