It Follows alright, in weird and terrifying ways.
We begin with a teenage girl running slow loops around a suburban street, trying to escape something we can’t see. She steals her father’s car, calls him to give him her love, and ends crumpled on a beach with her leg snapped backwards over her head. Ten minutes in, the stakes are set and we have no idea what’s going on.
The rest of the film follows teenager Jay and her crew of friends, in some non-specific time period. It seems like a Spielberg early ‘80s – thick TVs and no mobile phones – except for one of them has an e-reader. Jay is dating some guy, and after having sex with him for the first time, things get scary. Seems the guy was being followed – by it! – and the only way to have it(!) stop following you is to pass it on, like some kind of sexually transmitted zombie.
Better than that, really, I just wanted to use the phrase “sexually transmitted zombie”, zombies are boring now and the it of the title comes in the form of people. Sometimes familiar people, sometimes strangers, more often than not people who are physically wrong or broken in some way, in various states of tattered undress. For a film that pivots on sex, all of the nudity is freakish and disturbing.
There are rules to this thing, and I half wish it were done as a miniseries to spend more time exploring them and how they could be played with. Only people who are currently being, or have been, followed can see it, and if it kills you, the hit list moves back to the person who passed it on to you. There are definite similarities to the videotape in The Ring, but while that spent most of its running time figuring out the rules, this sets them up and runs with them.
The scenes where the follower appears are straight up terrifying, with special mention going to the first time it appears to Jay. There’s no fancy editing or quick-cutting chase, just static shots saying holy crap, look at this thing. It’s going to walk until it kills you. The follower usually stands out (what up, naked old man on a rooftop!), but not always, so anyone approaching in the background builds the ever-present sense of dread. If anything, it doesn’t turn up enough.
There isn’t much to complain about, the final plot to try and take it out is a bit silly, though since it was cooked up by a bunch of terrified teenagers, not implausibly so. The final final plot to get rid of it is probably the first thing everyone thought of. The sidekick-class teens don’t contribute much other than being around to be scared.
Mainly, It Follows is fascinating and terrifying in equal measure, with a lot to unpack. Sex leading to monsters is usually a metaphor for something, and the way the follower kills you, and the form it seems to take when it does, leads down an unsettling path.