It’s somewhere right now, walking straight toward you. It can look like anyone. It won’t stop. It won’t sleep. It won’t get bored or tired.
This is the horror of It Follows, a creeping thing that you can never be completely rid of. You can pass it on to someone else, but you are only safe as long as they are alive. You can never quite stop looking over your shoulder. Is it that woman on the street? That man in the supermarket? The toddler in the toy aisle?
You won’t know until it gets you. And then it’ll be too late.
It Follows is a film that does almost everything right. It seems to know where it stands in the pantheon of horror films, and if it scares more than other films have done, it is only because it is wise enough to stand on the shoulders of giants.
While it doesn’t seem to be rooted in any definitive time period, It Follows at the very least hearkens back to the zeitgeist of the eighties. The cars are all boxy and ugly, the televisions are all tubes, and no one has a cell phone.
And that eighties feel goes further than just the set design. We see it in the monster too, a killer that that follows particular rules, a supernatural creature with a physical presence, a cold-blooded, single-minded killing machine.
Under all of that, the driving, synth-y soundtrack sets our nerves on edge as we wait for the monster to make its appearance.
And yet, in spite of all of this, It Follows is never crass enough to give itself over completely to the slasher genre it evokes. There are moments of harsh violence, but they aren’t frequent and they aren’t the focus of the film. It Follows isn’t interested in shocking us with blood and guts and viscera. Instead it aims at a far more challenging target: making us uneasy. In every moment of quiet we are scanning the background for a walking figure, perhaps someone out of place, perhaps a friend. We come to understand that there is no rest. There is no safe place.
There has been a lot of talk about the “It” of It Follows being the living embodiment of an STD. It’s a fair and obvious comparison. After all, it only starts following you if you have sex with someone it has already attached itself to. But the metaphor of It Follows is bigger than a warning against STDs.
Because something is following all of us. And we cannot know what shape it will take. It is not in a hurry. It knows we can only run for so long.
And the most terrible agony may not be in the wounds themselves but in knowing for certain that within an hour, then within 10 minutes, then within half a minute, now at this very instant—your soul will leave your body and you will no longer be a person, and that this is certain. The worst thing is that it is certain.
Albert was born in the swamps of Florida and quickly developed a gripping writing style by wrestling with crocodiles. Albert is the author of The Mulch Pile and A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw.
To hear more of our thoughts on It Follows check out Episode 154 of the Human Echoes Podcast.