It Follows tells the story of a young woman named Jay (Maikia Monroe from The Guest, in a terrific performance) who is just beginning to discover her sexuality. There is a naiveté about her that attracts many of the males nearby, one of whom is a childhood friend who is hopelessly in love with her and isn't afraid to say so. She surrounds herself with a safe circle of friends who keep a close eye on her at all times, and seems to be a well-adjusted individual.
One night, Jay goes on a date with a strange guy named Hugh. As the night approaches, Hugh's behavior becomes unsettling. For instance, they leave the theatre early, because Hugh catches sight of a woman that clearly isn't there. Unnerved, Hugh takes Jay to a secluded area, where they make love in his car. All is well and good, until Hugh reaches around with a rag soaked in chloroform and knocks Jay out.
When she wakes up, Hugh informs her that an evil presence has been following him for quite some time. He explains that he has now passed it on to her. This presence will take many forms, and will stop at nothing to get to her. Her only hope is to pass it along to someone else by having sex with them. It is at this moment that Jay has her first encounter with "it".
From here on, It Follows becomes almost unbearably tense. You never know when "it" is going to show up. You never know who to trust, or if the terror is ever going to let up. To his credit, director Mitchell proves himself to be a master of building tension through mood and atmosphere. Shots linger on trees and flowers, on the dark surroundings where "it" may be hiding. There is a sense of time and place. A whole world has been created, and it is just as much a character in the film as anything or anyone else. It Follows "follows" in the footsteps of such films as Donnie Darko, Halloween, and The Shining - films which rely heavily on mystery, rather than blood, gore, or T&A. Added to that, It Follows is a multi-layered experience. One could read it as an allegory concerning sexually transmitted disease, or simply as a dense character study on sexual awakening and the loss of innocence. Read in this way, It Follows becomes reminiscent of ethereal fantasies, like Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves or even Jamoril Jires' Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders. Both of those films explored female sexuality by way of dream logic and various fairy tale tropes, and it can be said that It Follows accomplishes something similar.
Earlier, I mentioned comparisons to The Shining and Halloween. If Stanley Kubrick and John Carpenter were to collaborate on a project, It Follows would have been the end result. Everything from the excellent retro-80s synth score by Disasterpeace, to the shot compositions and slow burn pacing seems to be a homage to both of these legends. And, while it is one thing to create an obvious tribute to another artist, it is quite another to be able to do so while putting your own sensibilities - your own voice - on display, and to do so with intelligence, and maybe just a bit of humor.
It Follows is one of the best horror films of the year. Catch it while you still can!