“It Follows” is about a curse that is passed through sexual intercourse instead of by witnessing a bloody suicide. As in “Smile,” the curse manifests itself in people who appear normal at first. They can appear out of nowhere and from any location, sometimes walking at a slow pace. If they catch up to you, they will kill you and pursue the last person with the curse. Maika Monroe’s performance as Jay anchors the film, making her sense of constantly living on the edge feel palpable.
Jay also faces a moral dilemma. The only way for her to survive is to continue to outrun the mysterious specters or pass the curse on by having sex with someone else. As in “Smile,” these creepy figures shapeshift and could be anyone Jay sees: an older woman, a naked man on a rooftop, a tall man that emerges from the shadows. They wear blank, menacing expressions instead of smiles. It is terrifying to think that a monster could be hidden inside any person you encounter.
Writer and director David Robert Mitchell frames these people from a distance, much like the scene in “Smile” where Rose opens her blinds and sees someone staring at her from the hospital grounds below. The idea of being closely watched by someone so far away without even knowing it is extremely unsettling. “It Follows” is more open-ended, but it is just as stylish and shares the same paranoid apprehension as “Smile.”