Prepare for this subtly terrifying, thematically rich coming-of-age horror film to start playing in sex ed classes.


It Follows – the latest, incredibly atmospheric sophomore horror film from director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth Of The American Sleepover) – opens with a terrified teenage girl sprinting out of her house and driving away with no real sense of direction while the camera, doing a steady, elongated pan, focuses on the emptiness of her surroundings before showing her arrive at the deserted beach her brutalized body is found at just a few hours later. It’s a beautiful, haunting scene that immediately establishes it as that rare horror film that’s less interested in cynically tricking you and more interested in being as elegant, thoughtful and thematically rich as it is creepy. And if that’s not enough, It Follows will undoubtedly ruin sex for you the same way Requiem For A Dream ruined drugs.

Stylistically reminiscent of an 80s teen-movie – complete with synth tracks and faded cinematography – It Follows is just as much a teen drama as it is horror. It’s a coming-of-age story about coming to terms with adulthood and mortality with one minor modification: an STG (sexually transmitted ghoul) that moves very slowly, can look like anyone your id might conjure up and only you and those infected by it can see it, and once infected you can choose to either pass it on to someone else through sexual contact or risk it catching up to you and killing you.

Truthfully, the conceit is a bit gimmick-y (imagine The Ring re-envisioned as an 80s teen-movie) but it works by managing to find fascinating subtext and elegance in its simplicity. That’s what makes it special. Where other filmmakers would’ve just been satisfied with the ham-fisted STD metaphor that comes along with a literal sexually transmitted monster, Mitchell isn’t – he uses the idea as a springboard to more primal, universal terrors; questions of humanity and mortality. Maybe despite youthful vulnerability, childhood isn’t something to rush through, maybe we can cure frightful isolation with empathy, maybe sex – though opening us to wider understanding of the world and ourselves – is best reserved for when we’re truly ready and aware of its ramifications.

… Keep in mind, we’re still talking about a modern horror film here.

And not only is Mitchell a talent to look out for in terms of storytelling, but he’s also a gifted visual stylist. Though owing a lot to John Carpenter – between its pounding synth track and Detroit setting It Follows is undeniably reminiscent of Halloween’s Haddonfield, Illinois – he and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis show keen eyes for inspired, restrained compositions that expertly capture deep, primal fears (i.e. feelings of unequivocal seclusion). There are a lot of moments that can be read as coldly observing inaction; moments where the camera ominously lingers on. Always watching. Always reminding us there’s something out there. It’s incredibly subtle, visceral work I might compare to David Fincher’s Zodiac – which is an all-time favorite film of mine, so that’s not a comparison I make lightly.

But all that being said, despite managing to follow-through on most of its thematic promise – arriving at more than a few devastatingly truthful conclusions – It Follows does sadly waver in its final act. Running its premise just a bit too thin it briefly meanders its way into how-do-we-stop-the-creature nonsense before finding its footing again and ending on a predictable final shot that’s implications are nonetheless scary as fuck and sure to creep you out for the rest of the evening. For your own sake, I’d highly recommend not walking home after your screening.