The trope, nowadays, is to call any indie horror film a “clever twist on the genre” or “one of the most refreshing scary movies around” when it has something that resembles a bit of grit and intelligence. Because, even though it is 2015, horror is still critically derided and counted as something exploitative or pure mass culture. But, of course, any aficionado or fan who has devoured Romero, Carpenter, or Argento understands, the psyche of the horror film is rife for exploration. That is what makes It Follows such a gem—one that doesn’t overreach by aiming to answer big, existential questions, but still colors our concept of adolescence.
The concept of It Follows is relatively straightforward: An “It” (is it a monster? A spirit? An STD? The film doesn’t bother asking and is all the better for it) becomes attached to some helpless horndog after sex and follows them, relentlessly. It shows up as anyone—a friend, a stranger—and it won’t leave until you are dead...and nothing will stop it. The idea of something following you, slowly but unstoppably, has a great horror history (Michael Meyers, for instance), and it’s something that has been eschewed recently for trippy effects and eerie, J-Horror little girls. A particularly terrifying scene involves a simply executed full-frontal on a rooftop—an original addition to scary movies.
The hapless sex-haver is Jay, played by Maika Monroe, a beautiful but relatively unremarkable teen who finds herself terrified and stalked by the “It”. However, what makes the film seem authentic is that her friends refuse to leave her side and even are convinced that she is subjected to the uncanny—even though they can’t see it themselves. (Real talk: There is no one a teen trusts more than another teen.) And suddenly, even the mundane becomes menacing: School cafeterias, bedrooms, a harrowing scene in a well-lit bathroom. “If this happened to me in real life,” Monroe jokes, “I would get on a plane and fly to Australia. I would get on a plane and fly to think about what I would really do. Someone told me they would work on a cruise ship, which makes sense.”
Because the curse seems to be sexually transferred, It Follows opens itself up to a ton of interpretation, from STD scares to a metaphor for adulthood—once you start having sexual urges, maturity is coming for you, whether you want it to or not—but doesn’t nail a particular one down. “It’s so hard to pick the one thing it is about,” Monroe says. ” There are so many amazing interpretations.” That, dear readers, is what makes a good horror film.