Every couple of years, a new horror movie comes along that genre fans proclaim to be the next big thing — either because it puts a clever twist on well-worn tropes or it gets back to the basics of just trying to scare the living bejesus out of people.
This year, that film is supposed to be It Follows, which uses horror movie sex as a plot catalyst. Jay (Maika Monroe) is set on a terrifying journey after she has sex with Hugh (Jake Weary), a boy she recently met. As it turns out, he was just trying to pass on a curse to her that’s transmitted through sex.
Once afflicted, a phantom, in the form of strangers or friends, starts following her wherever she goes. Hugh tells her the only way to avoid being killed by said phantom is to pass on the curse to some other unlucky soul — although even that doesn’t stop the horror, because the curse will revert back to her if that person dies.
Aside from being an obvious allegory about STDs, the appeal of It Follows should lie in its simplicity. Because the phantom can take any form, Jay never knows where it will appear next. Consequently, paranoia for both Jay and the audience should be high.
The problem is, when the phantom appears, it rarely, if ever, feels really threatening. It always moves at a glacial pace, meaning it can be outrun fairly easily. And it never changes form in the middle of an “attack,” so the idea that it could truly be anyone never takes hold, either.
Because Jay’s only solution is to have sex with someone else, you’d think that would be priority No. 1 on her list. Instead, she and her group of friends spend way too much time doing anything but getting rid of the curse. When she finally does try, the attempts are either out-of-nowhere or given less import than they should.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell, who earned plaudits for his debut film, The Myth of the American Sleepover, just never sells the story. I can appreciate letting the fear of the unknown be the selling point instead of shoving scares in our faces, but the somnambulant nature of the film’s villain takes things too far in the other direction.
Ultimately, It Follows fails to live up to its “next big thing” billing. It elicits too few scares and too many shoulder shrugs.