Forget Dracula and Freddie Kruger. In writer/director David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, the killer is as generic as death, the universal murderer. The monster can look like anyone: an old woman, a child, your mom. And instead of cackling quips or toying with blades, it simply paces toward you, as silent and slow as a lion, until it's close enough to pounce. Flee to Kansas and it will pad behind in pursuit. A child fears the boogeyman under the bed. Grown-ups wake up terrified of nightmares like this—they know that in some form, an assassin will slay us all and there's no escape.
Mitchell has made a teen slasher for adults. The sacrificial flesh is young, but the horrors are for the barely legal and above, as the stalker is transmitted by sex. Sleep with the wrong partner, as 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe, the square-shouldered blonde of last summer's excellent The Guest) discovers, and death passes from her date to her. Jay's choices are dire: die, or kill her own conscience by seducing the next victim.
It Follows crams big ideas into a thin, but stylish thriller that shares the visual tics of this new breed of low budget, high ambition horror. There's a way-cool synth soundtrack, curiously dated set design (our heroine still watches a TV with rabbit ears), several gorgeous tracking shots, and pounds of atmospheric pressure. At times, the film moves so slow it feels drugged. But just when boredom sets in, a figure moves in the distance and alarm bells sound all over again. The most fun will be in dissecting it afterwards. Film school professors, look forward to a decade of term papers.