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Julian Terry’s ‘They Hear It’ Calls On ‘It Follows’ Filmmaker

By  · Published on August 14th, 2018

Terry’s debut feature enlists the help of one of the most unique voices in modern horror.

The fact that horror is having such a heyday at the moment deserves to be celebrated. However, with so much fresh blood in the water, keeping up with individual projects from so many up-and-comers can be a feat. Still, one way to inspire confidence in your project and set yourself apart from a slew of new faces is to team up with people like David Robert Mitchell. And that’s exactly what filmmaker Julian Terry is doing.

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Michell, who directed the 2014 indie hit It Follows, will return to the horror genre and pen the big-screen adaptation of They Hear It. This promising original horror story was picked up by Legendary last month and will be based on a short film of the same name that Terry created as a proof-of-concept. Terry himself will serve as the director on the picture in what will be his feature film debut after releasing acclaimed shorts like The Nurse and Whisper.

They Hear It does not have a full synopsis yet, but this sense of unknowability works in its favor. The film will center on a presence only known as “The Sound.” THR notes that “anyone” who hears it will face dire results of unknown magnitude, while earlier reports have singled out children as being The Sound’s primary targets.

They Hear It will reportedly take inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and the recent IT adaptation, so the children arc will likely remain intact. That would actually be preferable, not simply because kids have portrayed some of our favorite film and TV characters since the initial Stranger Things boom. Rather, this has all to do with Mitchell’s talent for writing stellar coming-of-age narratives, which is exemplified in two of the three features he has under his belt so far.

Yes, Mitchell has only directed three features and one of them, Under the Silver Lake, is awaiting wide release at the end of 2018. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that he has a long way to go in ensuring that his fantastic beginnings in the film industry remain sustainable. However, the greatness of both his debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover, as well as It Follows is undeniable. These films collectively get so close to the bone and capture the very essence (and terror) of adolescence and young adulthood.

The Myth of the American Sleepover is as disarmingly real as a coming-of-age film gets. Set on the last day of summer in a Detroit suburb, the film retains a sense of universality through the cerebral nature of Mitchell’s storytelling. The Myth of the American Sleepover is hazy and otherworldly but particularly cutting in its close explorations of the intensity of teenage relationships. Having non-professional actors in the film certainly lends even more of a non-descript vibe as the film’s characters chase feelings and each other on an unpolished canvas. Mitchell’s discerning eye for the emotional realities that lie beneath the veneers of happy-go-lucky teens allows the seeds for his striking follow-up to be planted.

Being a horror movie, It Follows clearly aligns itself with Mitchell’s commitment to They Hear It. The Sound in Terry’s short already feels like a cousin to the It in Mitchell’s sophomore effort. Both are frightful entities that bring death and destruction in their wake. But more importantly, their ability to blend so seamlessly into everyday life makes them far more terrifying.

There is also something to be said about the languid nature of the It Follows creature, which sharply challenges our expectations of horror movies as unrealistic, over-the-top thrill rides. We are definitely constantly on edge in Mitchell’s movie, but this is more likely due to a sense of dread that is amplified by formalistic brilliance in terms of cinematography and sound editing.

And what exactly are we fearing? The visuals and jagged music certainly help to bolster an impression of It as something we should fear, but we actually don’t quite know what It is. An obvious reading of It Follows posits an STI-related throughline — that this entity is a “consequence” of so-called impurity. However, this surface-level analysis doesn’t cut it when It is so ambiguous and purposely inhabits anyone and anything. It also helps that Mitchell himself has rejected the notion that sex is a particularly big deal in the movie.

This is why I’m partial to the themes of coming-of-age that permeate It Follows. Mortality is such a strong focal point in a film about kids who should be looking forward to the rest of their lives as grown-ups. Yet, part of growing up certainly means accepting that death is a reckoning that no one can escape.

The literal walking entity of death doggedly but patiently comes for its victims in It Follows. The sex-related themes in the film only serve to jump-start an arc of maturation for its protagonist Jay (Maika Monroe). Once the safety bubble of her childhood pops, she fights tooth and nail for her life and in some way, her innocence. The experience leaves her irrevocably changed, but in the film still manages to overturn the final girl trope even at the very last instance.

This is but one way to read a film as ambiguous as It Follows. But if Mitchell is already including such powerful thematic undercurrents in his sophomore feature, I can only imagine what he’ll cook up for The Sound and where he’ll take the kids involved in They Hear It.

Am I sad that Mitchell won’t be directing They Hear It? A little, given that the stylistic credibility of It Follows definitely carries the weight of its secretly multiplicious story. That said, Terry’s high-quality short films — straightforward in concept yet effective in execution — showcase that he could very well deliver the full caliber of Mitchell’s pared-down screenplays. At first, They Hear It was just a new title to be intrigued by, but this new duo actually promises a fresh, tantalizing horror possibility.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)