You ever get the sneaking suspicion feeling that you’re being followed?
That seems to be the initial fear that propels David Robert Mitchell’s new film It Follows. But this already terrifying idea comes with a hook so simple that you’ll wonder why it’s never been made into a movie before. This feeling is a curse, embodied by the form of a physical person following and trying to kill you. But this curse is passed on through the most famous of horror movie tropes: sex. When someone with the curse passes it to you, you’re it. You’re doomed unless you can pass it to someone else. But if they get killed before they can pass it on, then the curse comes back to you. Teen horror movies have long held the notion that sex will kill you (with the final survivor usually being a virgin), but in this film sex is the only means of survival.
I’ve heard a lot of people describe It Follows as a horror movie about STDs, simply because “It” gets passed along through intercourse. But after seeing the movie, I think that’s a pretty surface level reading. It might be good for getting people into the theater, but I don’t think it’s an accurate reflection of what the film is really trying to say. The movie has these reoccurring moments of build up where we wait for “It” to appear, with the camera slowly moving and the music ratcheting up until the tension is almost unbearable. That’s the film in a nutshell: it’s not about death, but rather the inevitability and anxiety of time running out.
While our cast of characters ranges in age within the teenage end of the spectrum, our lead is firmly on the cusp of entering her twenties. Jay Height is already in college and wistfully reminisces about her girlhood dreams of being old enough to go out with cute guys and drive around aimlessly without parental supervision. After having the cursed passed onto her by her boyfriend Hugh, Jay spends the rest of the film trying to avoid fate and ignoring her mortality by living on borrowed time. Both her attempts to pass the curse onto someone else end up backfiring and her escapes to far away camp sites and abandoned buildings only delay “It” by so much.
But Jay isn’t the only character who’s trying to put off the inevitable. Her friends often find themselves regressing towards the comfort of childish things, talking about first kisses and the like. But a key moment comes up early in the film’s opening act. Hugh takes Jay out to a movie before passing the curse onto her, and while waiting in line they engage in a game that revolves around strangers in a crowd, and Hugh, to Jay’s surprise, picks out a little boy with his parents, with Hugh expressing envy at the thought of having one’s whole life still ahead of him. These characters aren’t just running around away from some shifting monster, but adulthood itself.
After becoming one of 2014’s most talked about films on the festival circuit, It Follows is now poised to become one of 2015’s most talked indie horror films. While I’m not sure the movie works as well as others have made it out to be, it is an effective little horror film. It’s a modern day urban legend, like a more adult take on Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark.
If you’re still on the fence, check out the trailer below. It Follows is currently in limited release, but is expanding nationwide on March 27.