We suddenly live in an indie horror renaissance, where skilled and richly thought-through scarefests, most notably “It Follows,” actually cross over into the mainstream. Jennifer Kent’s Australian ghost movie never cracked the national top ten box office winners this past winter, but it’s equally intense. In fact, it’s debatably more neve-wracking before a mega-creepy specter out of a demented children’s book starts skulking about the creaky home of a widow (Essie Davis) and her young son (Noah Wiseman). That’s because he’s become abruptly unhinged, so convinced there’s a ghoul in the house that he’s taken to massive, loud, uncontrollable freak-out sessions, much to the dismay of his grieving and already on-edge mom. He works on viewer’s nerves to so that once things go next level they’re already frayed.
Andy and Lana Wachowski have a Netflix show, “Sense8,” en route, but they’re generally in the doghouse: every film they’ve made since the “Matrix” films has been an epic money-loser, and only the first “Matrix” was much liked anyway. But they still have the power to do whatever they please because of their debut: a neo-noir that got attention because its heroes were lesbians but earned it because it was an immaculately sculpted thriller that made the most of not just the great Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly but the great Joe Pantoliano too.
Great ideas don’t always happen to the people who will do them best, but what’s really fascinating about this film, in which an enterprising documentarian tracks down a guy who became belatedly Internet-famous for a video where he flips out while shooting a commercial, isn’t the guy himself. It’s watching filmmaker Ben Steinbauer realize he’s in way over his head. Not only does his subject proves more irascible than he expected, but he’s suddenly stuck with an ethical dilemma on how to handle someone who never thought he’d go viral.