The concept of It Follows is so deliciously simple and so ingeniously clever, it’s a marvel that no movie’s done it before.
There is a shape-shifting demon/devil/monster that exists in the world. Just one. And it follows just one accursed person in the world at a time. You get the curse by having sex with the current host of the curse. Once you have the curse, it follows. It only moves at a walking pace, but it never stops. You can run away as far as you like, but it will eventually catch up to you. And when it does, it will very brutally kill you.
There is one and one only way to rid yourself of the curse: give it to someone else, the same way you got it. After that, it will follow that person, until they pass it on to someone else. But here, so very deliciously, is the real rub: If it ever kills the person it’s hunting, the curse (and the demon) rewinds to the previous person in the chain, so you can never truly be sure it’s gone for good.
Jay (Maika Monroe) contracts it from her boyfriend, who flees town immediately after ridding himself of the curse and explaining its basic rules to her. After Jay is chased (slowly but relentlessly) out of her classroom and through her school the next day, she desperately tries to convince her family and friends of the entity after her. Unfortunately, it’s invisible to everybody except her (and those who have had the curse earlier).
You might think that having a monster that can’t move faster than a brisk walk couldn’t make for a truly terrifying horror movie, but while It Follows‘ demon doesn’t move faster than a traditional zombie, its unwavering relentlessness — along with an early reveal of the type of brutal death that awaits its victims — slowly but surely seeps into your deepest fears.
In no time, you’ll find yourself nervously scanning the backgrounds of every shot, knowing it will creep back into view eventually. And when it does, the terror of slowly watching it approach characters from directions they’re not looking is palpably heart-stopping.
Like recent low-budget, old-fashioned horror movies The Conjuring and The Babadook, It Follows relies less on gore and sudden scares than building dread and mounting fear. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell shows his monster early and often, because the appearances themselves aren’t the root of the movie’s power so much as the inexorable pursuit of an evil that can never be stopped is.
It Follows isn’t a perfect movie. The synth score may not be for everyone, a couple of the characters are one-dimensional or borderline irrelevant, and the main group of teenagers seem to exist in an insular world without grown-ups. (Seriously, where are all the adults while the kids are dealing with this pesky demon curse stuff?) But its script is so thoroughly smart, the cast is so wonderfully committed, and the terror Mitchell builds is so real, the result is one of the best horror movies of the last couple years and one that’s impossible to shake. Try as you might to leave its dread behind after the credits roll, it follows.