David Robert Mitchell is a young American filmmaker with a remarkable and perhaps self-consciously old-fashioned command for the medium. He made his debut four years ago with an exquisite summer’s-end teen romance called “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” which was one of my favorite films of 2011 but never broke free of the dwindling indie niche audience. I don’t know whether to call Mitchell’s second-film strategy cynical or brilliant; it might be both. With his justly acclaimed horror movie “It Follows,” which features a riveting opening sequence that will freak you the hell out, Mitchell has essentially made the same movie again, translated into a different genre. This too is a tender tale of loneliness and heartbreak in the middle-class suburban belt just outside Detroit, but with a teen-slaughtering, sexually transmitted demon occasionally showing up to snap the characters’ legs off.
On the rare occasions that young filmmakers ask me for advice, I tell them that one small corner of their brain must be reserved for the perspective of a moronic but market-savvy Hollywood executive: How can I sell this thing? What’s the seven-words-or-less tag line that makes my movie jump out of t...
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