It Follows is a psychological horror that carries an unremittingly bleak vibe from the start up to the very end, certainly not a feel good film, something I seem to crave nowadays. It reminded me quite a bit of The Ring which is not a bad thing.
Jay (Maika Monroe) is a typical 19 year old girl whose life is turned upside down after an innocent sexual encounter. After the act her lover knocks her out and she awakens tied to a wheelchair in a deserted building where she is told that a curse has been passed onto her. a being is hunting her, something which can take on the form of anyone and exists only to kill. No matter where Jay goes, no matter what she does it is always going to be walking straight towards her, and when it finds her she will die, the only escape is to pass on the curse through sex. Now stalked wherever she goes Jay with the help of her friends must find a way to stop the terror.
It Follows is almost art house in its style and execution. There are lots of long long shots of nothing and inconsequential focus on non relevant items. The soundtrack is discordant, screeching and stark. The music sounds like it is from 1970's horror and ramps up the tension and looming threat, amplifying the fear rather than being separate. This bleak outlook is resonated in the locations with many dilapidated houses, buildings and wide lonely beaches, and even reflected in the characters themselves with Jay slowly going insane with the knowledge there is no escape, and her friends who are at a total loss on how to help her in any meaningful way.
If The Terminator was a horror rather than a sci-fi action film then this could easily be that film. The being only walks, never runs, never speaks and is invisible to all but the victim (and any people previously cursed). It can appear as a friend, a family member, a random stranger but is usually portrayed as what I assume to be previous victims with beaten half naked females, gaunt men, and the one appearance of a screaming pale faced child. A trick used is to have the being in the background slowly making it's way towards the scene playing out in focus at the forefront, this is always effective and starts to make you really question if it is the evil or just some random human going about their business. In a decent move that I have to give It Follows credit for the horror is confined for the most part to this presence, there was only two or three jump scares in the whole film. No matter what form the evil takes it is always threatening.
It can be seen as a cautionary tale about casual sex, about the danger of STDs, or even the fear of unwanted pregnancy, but it felt to me more the exploration of mankind's mortality. You are getting closer to death with every passing second and nothing you can do can change that. Using sex as a means to feel, to stop being so numb just doesn't work, even with that done you just end up still so hollow, safe with the knowledge that a temporary reprieve is all you have attained. When it comes down to it acceptance is the only way to deal with the negative thoughts and emotions that come with being alive. You have to face the evil straight on and just try and get on with your life as best as you can rather than be constantly running.
It is not all fantastic though, while I laud the inventive 'monster' of the piece it would be nice to know more of it's powers, while it is said to only walk it seems to teleport off camera getting to distant locations in a short amount of time, at other points when it is close to Jay (within short walking distance) it just doesn't appear. In one scene it is shown to be standing on the roof of Jay's house; just how did it even get up there? With decent pacing and a near final scene at a swimming pool that manages to not fall into the trap of being over the top the film still manages to shine and again shows that off screen deaths need not be a bad thing when imagination comes to town.
With no explanation, no resolution and no joy for Jay this film happily stands on it's own, to explain would be to ruin the magic and the terror. While I won't be kept up at night over this it makes a change to watch something that really makes you think and to imprint your own impressions onto events. A real downer, but an entertaining one.