The movie opens in the daytime with Annie (Bailey Spry), a teenager, running outside her house, then in a circle, before getting in her car and driving off. Then we see Annie at night, sitting on the beach, facing her car's headlights, and talking to her father on her phone. Next it's day, and we see Annie's corpse, hideously contorted and partially dismembered.
Now we jump to Jay Height (Maika Monroe), a young woman living an ordinary life in a middle-class house. Jay hangs out with her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), continually-reading friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and slightly geeky friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) who has a crush on Jay. She's also dating Hugh (Jake Weary) and is happy, though he freaks out when she doesn't see the woman in a yellow dress he points out in a movie theater. But the two get along great, and they sleep together for the first time in the back of his car. She thinks it's dreamy... until he chloroforms her and she wakes up tied to a wheelchair. And that's not even the creepy part.
Hugh tells Jay that he's being pursued by an entity, and since they slept together the entity is now pursuing her. He says no can see it but her (and the people who had passed it on), the entity can look like anyone, and it will walk straight after her in slowly but without stopping until it catches and kills her. He wants Jay to live -- if it kills her it'll then go after the person who gave it to her (which is Hugh), and then the person who gave it to him, and so on -- and if she sleeps with someone, they'll become the entity's new target. The Woman in Yellow then shows up, walking towards Jay until Hugh drives them away and dumps Jay in front of her house.
Naturally, Jay doesn't believe Hugh's story and gets the police involved. But then every bump or strange person seems to affect Jay; and when a large, ghostly figure bursts in the room and none of her friends notice, the panic really sets in. Her friends quickly believe her and hang out with her; Greg (Daniel Zovatto), the bad boy across the road, doesn't really believe her but still gets her a gun. Soon Jay and her friends are trying to find Hugh and the origin of this creature, and figure out a way to stop it, while she considers whether or not to sleep with someone and make them the target. And every stranger, or every friend, could be the evil creature, and it keeps walking closer, and closer, and closer...
It Follows is very simple and very effective. The movie has virtually no special effects (the most elaborate is Annie's body in the opening) and creates quite a few scares through tension, as slow panning shots reveal nothing -- or a place the creature could come -- or someone slowly walking closer. The movie also hearkens back to 1980s horror, with both the music (either loud blasts of noise or all-synthesizer songs), the idea that sex is punished by a monster, and a seemingly unstoppable adversary who never runs but always catches up with the target,
Unfortunately, It Follows also has some of the '80s horror flaws as well. The actors are decent, but only star Maika Monroe has a lot to do -- and even that is mostly looking scared and tired. And most characters' personalities can be summarized in a sentence, or even a long phrase. But even with those weaknesses, It Follows still generates more tension and fear than any horror movie in recent memory. Much like The Blair Witch Project, It Follows skips the usual gore and special effects to achieve a lot with the basics.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch