It Follows is a clever, modern horror movie that succeeds without resorting to heavy referencing or meta commentary on the genre. It does this by removing two of the biggest elements of the stalker genre: A visually iconic killer, and a high body count.
There is an iconography to the killer here, but it’s one that only works within the context of the movie. It’s about action and presence, not just a visual. There’s no monster to shove onto a T-Shirt and demystify. This monster is ordinary, always changing and invisible. What defines it, what makes it iconic, is its singular determination to violently fuck its target to death.
The gimmick of this movie is actually pretty clever, giving reason to the classic trope of teenagers getting murdered after having sex. There is an invisible monster who can only be seen by those it pursues. It can look like anyone, and has a nasty habit of sometimes appearing like their loved ones. Wherever it is, it is slowly walking towards its target. The monster’s attention can be passed on through sex, but whenever the monster kills its target, it starts working its way back up the line. Once someone passes it on they can still see it. They never can become truly free of it.
We learn all this pretty much upfront after our heroine sleeps with a dude, only to awake strapped into wheelchair in her underwear as he nervously explains what he has cursed her with. He even confronts her with the monster itself, trying to ensure she knows what she’s dealing with because he needs her to live.
The monster’s focus is so narrow, the body count is actually fairly low. Where most horror movies have a cast of characters just as fodder to whittle down, here the friends really are just there to be characters and provide moral support. The movie does a good job driving home how powerless they are to save their friend.
There’s a nice rhythm to the movie. Many quiet moments of the characters trying to get some respite, even though they, and you, know that the monster is out there, walking towards them. Then moments of frenzy once the monster does catch up.
The real key is that they did a real good job executing all of it. The actors sell everything and the movie is shot very well. I was a little worried at first because the first shot feels like the director saying “I’m a director! Look at me!” But the movie is good enough, and frankly just well directed, so it’s not a problem. The soundtrack is weird, full of strange stingers and flourishes. Again, I wasn’t sure if it was terrible or great at first, but the movie would be worse without it so I side with the latter.
Also gets bonus points for nailing the ending.
If you’re up for a methodical horror movie I recommend It Follows.