03/27/2015 02:03 EDT | Updated 03/27/2015 02:59 EDT

Maika Monroe On 'It Follows,' Her Breakout Year, And What's To Come

The concept of "It Follows" is pretty simple -- it's that part in (usually dumb) horror movies when something is following you, but super slowly. It's all about creepy incessancy, and what usually happens is that the thing going after the lead character catches up, and things go awry.

What's remarkable about Dave Robert Mitchell's film is that it manages to sustain this sense of dread from the first frame to the last. It's the pitch-perfect nature of the piece that keeps it riveting, and a huge part of what makes it work is the eminently believable and compelling performance by the film's lead, Maika Monroe.

Monroe has already made quite the name for herself, being equally exemplary in the 2014 Sundance hit "The Guest." The professional kiteboarder (for realz) had small parts in the likes of Jason Rietman's risible "Jury Duty," but it's these back-to-back genre gems that have set her apart as the new queen of screams.

The Huffington Post Canada spoke with Monroe during the Sundance Film Festival, and in person the 21-year-old is both chatty and fidgety, a young woman who still hasn't quite come to terms with how damn good she is at fully inhabiting these characters, and making the often preposterous conventions of horror seem eminently believable.

HuffPost Canada: So what have the last 12 months been like for you?

Maika Monroe: Oh, man, it's been pretty crazy, in a great way. "The Guest" basically premiered at Sundance and that blew up. Then "It Follows" at Cannes, and people were loving that, so it's been really cool. It's awesome when people respond to your movie and love it.

I shot two movies, one in Iceland and then just finished literally a week ago shooting "The Fifth Wave," which is a young-adult novel trilogy that is, I hate comparing it, but it's "Hunger Games"-esque. It's going to be a franchise, and I get to play a kick-ass role, so it's been an amazing 12 months.

What's the film in Iceland?

Yeah, it's called "Bokeh" -- a couple go on a trip to Iceland, and they wake up and everyone's gone, they don't know what happens. It's really cool, a real look at two people trying to survive the end of the world.

Are these '80s genre-type films something that you really respond to? You seem to be the new John Carpenter girl.

Yeah, it's very odd and it just happened by chance. It wasn't at all anything planned. I don't think that you can even plan this. Yeah, scream queen, I don't know how that even happened. These two amazing scripts just came and I was like, I have to do them.

Did you get cast in part for "It Follows" because of "The Guest"?

No, because I was shooting "The Guest" as I sent in my audition tape for "It Follows."

How are you finding these projects? Is there just a big pile and then one of them sparks your interest?

There's a lot of scripts! My team reads them as well, but you can't always trust the team, sometimes you've got to be there yourself. There are definitely scripts I start reading, where it doesn't interest me. Maybe it'll be a good movie, but the character doesn't intrigue me. I think I want to keep loving my job and if I'm going to be on a movie for a month, two months, whatever it is, I want to f**king love the role.

So yeah, there's a lot of garbage and then there are those ones that just stand out so incredibly. You fight for those roles, you do everything in your power to get it. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't, so I've been really lucky with these two. These two projects were two films that I really wanted to do, especially with two incredible young directors that I expect to be going to great places, so it was very cool.

Is there something that you've read that you thought yeah, I really love this script, but this is not for me?

Oh, yeah, a lot of times I'll get roles where it's the dumb blonde or the cheerleader and I just have no interest, and it can be a great movie, it really can, or the mean girl, those things don't intrigue me much. I like the challenging stuff or the weird stuff; it's more interesting to me, I guess.

What scary movies were you obsessed with as a kid?

Freddy Krueger ["Nightmare On Elm Street"] was the one that I remember so vividly watching as a kid, every ... I don't know how many Freddy Kruegers there were, so many. And terrified, I mean. "The Shining" was one of the first horror movies that I saw, my dad showed it to me. And other stupid horror movies that just scared me. The one that I remember most was Freddy Krueger, it was the most terrifying.

You like to be scared?

Oh yeah, it's great. It's so much fun. It's being able to watch a movie and scaring the shit out of yourself, it's great and it's fun being in a movie where people walk out and say, "Oh my God, it's awesome!"

What has it been like to watch "It Follows" with an audience?

There's something about the horror genre and the fans and how involved they get in the screenings and the movie, the screaming, clapping, it's so cool. It's been really awesome to have such a good response.

What was the first movie you saw that made you think, made you fall in love with movies, and was there another that made you think "I want to do this"?

I think they might be the same movie: "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" with Jack Nicholson.

My dad had me see a lot of good movies and that one just stuck with me. As a kid, I was planning to be a paramedic. It wasn't until by chance I got to be an extra in a movie, and I got to be on set, and I just fell in love with it. That's when my intrigue started.

So you're going to be an action figure in this upcoming trilogy? What does that feel like?

It's crazy, I mean, I just came back from having black hair for the role, I had black, jet-black hair, it was cool. I like playing these kick-ass girl roles. It's awesome.

So who keeps you grounded?

My mom. She's the one driving me to L.A., doing the auditions and stuff, she's my biggest supporter and yet she's the most honest person with me. She'll be very honest and I appreciate that, if for whatever reason I get carried away. Barely any of my friends are in the industry, so they have like no interest in acting or anything and I think that's good.

So you surround yourself with normalcy?

Yeah, definitely. Because I don't think this stuff is normal.

Without naming names, what's the craziest thing that has happened in the last year that you thought was a myth about Hollywood?

About Hollywood? Oh, God. I guess seeing how some actors treat other people. You're on a movie set and everyone is working their ass off, if anything, we're getting pampered there. Some people feel that they're higher up and they can talk down to somebody, I just think that's so not OK, and I was hoping that, you know, you hear stories and you just hope that it's not true, and when you see it, it's like, oh, that's too bad.

What does "It Follows" mean to you? Obviously, "The Guest" was a big break, but "It Follows" has shown a very different version of you.

You get to see a very vulnerable side. It's a lot of emotion and it's ... with the sex scenes, there are very intimate things that I don't think I've really ever done in a movie before, so having audiences being able to see that and see that side of me, has been scary. At the same time very cool.

"It Follows" opens in Canadian theatres on March 27, 2015.

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