More than 35 years after John Carpenter’s Halloween, the leafy streets of American suburbia remain perilous for teenagers. In writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s horror chiller It Follows, yet another bunch of youngsters find themselves under threat from an implacable menace but their dismayingly elusive foe is no knife-wielding maniac.
Instead, as 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe, The Guest) discovers after her date with new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) takes a hazardous turn, her pursuer can take the form of a succession of different people, mostly strangers but some familiar, who walk towards her at a slow but relentless pace. Only she can see her stalker and her only hope of survival is to pass on this curse to someone else.
There’s something eerily uncanny and uncannily eerie about the unnamed entity that is following Jay, and the fact that Mitchell doesn’t explain its origins only makes his film more unnerving. Jay’s curse has echoes of Japanese horror films, such as The Ring cycle, while her inhumanly human pursuers recall Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The way the curse is passed from one person to another inevitably suggests a form of sexually transmitted disease, but there is no suggestion of the retribution for sexual activity so often found in slasher movies. Instead, Jay and the teenage friends who come to her aid are portrayed with refreshing sensitivity and realistic nuance.
Above all, though, It Follows is scary. As the throbbing electronic score by Disasterpeace (alias of Rich Vreeland) ratchets up the tension, the remorseless antagonist becomes genuinely horrifying, all the more so because its malignity is seemingly motiveless. And with no escape or solace, all we can do is anxiously scan the artfully composed widescreen frame looking to see from where and in what form it will next appear.
Certificate 15. Runtime 100 mins. Director David Robert Mitchell.