As It Follows circles about the top of everyone's "best movies you haven't seen list," I found it appropriate to check it out myself. While it was on my watch list, it wasn't near the top. After all, it is a horror movie, and I always have some trepidation to plunging into one of these by myself. So far, I remain unscathed, although they have provided me with a good deal of entertaining dreams afterward. It Follows is no different, and unexpected, as it tapped into one of my core fears, and actually reminded me of a film that possibly spawned my (legit) fear of what i should now be coining: The Unstoppable Force.
The movie starts on an interesting scene: the camera is stationary in the middle of a generic suburbian street as a young woman runs out of her home in a panic. She runs down the street, toward the camera. As we swivel about, we see she is constantly looking behind her, but we don't see anything chasing her. She encounters a neighbour, who asks if she is OK. Oddly, she answers "yes, everything is good" and continues running. She circles about, gets into her car and drives off, only to be found the next morning on a beach in a horribly mutilated state. We don't get to see what did this to her. We're just left with questions.
You'll be immediately hooked on how this movie is shot. The camera work is beautiful, with interesting angles, movements and character placement. The young actors are all relatively unknown, and do a convincing job in their roles. The music deserves an award, as it weaves us into the film, building suspense as we explore this supernatural phenomena. So what is happening here? It's never fully answered, and it works beautifully. At best, we can call it a supernatural entity, perhaps a demon, perhaps not. It's chasing - albeit very slowly - these young people. How does it decide who to hunt down? Easy: it's like a sexually transmitted disease. If you have sex with somebody who is "infected" with the entity's obsession, you're next. The entity will hunt you down, kill you then move on to the next person.
Here's the thing. The entity "chases" you in as much as it walks slowly at you. It doesn't try to hide itself, no, it can be seen as long as you're looking from a great distance. If you walk just a bit faster you can escape it, forever. But, you can't keep moving forever, can you? It always knows where you are, and it just never stops. Never. You can drive hours away, and in a couple of days the entity will have caught up. You can shoot it, but it gets back up again. The only way to "escape" this fate is to have sex, thereby passing on the entity's obsession. But if that person is caught, well, you're up next. At least, that's what we figure out through our main group of characters. The film doesn't explore the greater mythos of the situation. It's never given a name, or history. And it works perfectly, as the viewer limited to relating entirely with our on screen victims with nothing more to think about, it's easier to get involved.
It was easy for me to draw the comparison: as the entity moves slowly at our victim, I kept catching visions of the original Terminator. It was nearly identical: the Terminator didn't need to run at you, it knew it was going to get caught up and well, terminate you. Nothing could stop it (well, nearly). In fact, the ending sequence (sorry, spoilers) of both films was similar. The group of teens decide to try and trap the entity, just as the Terminator was trapped (although it's important to note that it could have been an accident of being in the right place at the right time). Every time the entity showed up, slowly walking, I got the chills, just as I did from the original Terminator film.
With all that, it's important to note that the film doesn't get very gory after the opening scene, nor does it provide any sort of cheap jump scare. It's slow, methodical and relentless, just like the entity. We're drawn in right from the beginning, and you may find yourself questioning some of our victims' actions - it is a horror film after all - you can't get too caught up in it. You'll be too busy admiring the beauty of the film itself, both wishing for and wishing against a sequel, or more information on what this entity is.