The Eighties have become well-trodden territory recently, several directors have found success in reviving the neon-drenched, synth-scored thrills of that decade. However, few have managed to conjure that atmosphere and deliver on the horror as well. Haunting, nail-biting and genuinely terrifying, It Follows is both a successful homage to a bygone era and a tremendous horror film in its own right.
After sleeping with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) for the first time, Jay (Maika Monroe) wakes, tied up in an abandoned building as Hugh explains that he has passed a terrifying curse onto her. A relentless force will pursue her until it touches her, then she’s dead and it will go after Hugh again. The only way to get rid of it is to pass it on.
Writer-director David Robert Mitchell draws heavily on Halloween tropes, with long, slow shots of wide streets and an evil that can’t be reasoned with, not to mention A Nightmare On Elm Street, as Jay and her friends are forced to band together and sleep in shifts to avoid being surprised by whatever it is.
This sense of timelessness also stems from the very clear set of rules that Jay is given. It’s beautiful in its simplicity: this thing will not stop until it gets you. It has no fixed appearance; any passer by or figure in the distance could be coming for her.
You may see It Follows being referred to as an STD slasher, but that brash label undermines the care with which Mitchell presents the sexual aspect of the film. He never judges Jay, and her reluctance to rid herself of the curse by passing it on is conveyed by quiet moments and refused conversations. The complicated nature of teenage desire and friendship is a subdued but incredibly potent force, and Monroe follows her strong turn in The Guest with a nuanced, affecting performance.
By understanding that bombast isn’t necessary when nowhere is safe, Mitchell constructs a tense atmosphere and unsettling menace to create something special. It Follows has all the signs of becoming a modern classic.