Every week for the foreseeable future, Vulture will be selecting one film to watch as part of our Friday Night Movie Club. This week’s selection — the fourth in a special monthlong celebration of horror — comes from staff writer Rachel Handler, who will begin her screening of It Follows on October 30 at 7 p.m. ET. Head to Vulture’s Twitter to catch her live commentary, and look ahead to next week’s movie here.
The scariest thing about It Follows, David Robert Mitchell’s 2015 indie-horror sleeper hit that crept quietly into theaters in limited release and ended up making $23 million worldwide, is that the film reveals almost nothing. Mitchell, who says he came up with the film’s premise based on his own childhood nightmares, gives us only the bare, chilly bones of a plot: Bored Detroit suburban teen Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with a new guy, who then explains to her that she’s now the unwitting prey of an unusually perverse supernatural presence, one that will slowly stalk her around town and eventually murder her unless she sleeps with someone else, subsequently passing on said sex curse. Jay, traumatized and racked with anxiety, then wrestles with both a literal demon and the ethical notion of siccing said demon on somebody else, all the while surrounded by a merry band of friends — the lovesick Paul (Keir Gilchrist), Jay’s loyal sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), the sleepy Yara (Olivia Luccardi), and the sketchy neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto) — who not only believe her, but will stop at nothing to help her (including having sex with her, but like, for the cause).
It’s a delightfully terrifying premise, rife with loving homages to John Carpenter and George Romero and David Lynch, but the primary reason It Follows works as a horror film is because it never pauses to explain itself — rare in a genre that can accidentally neuter itself by overexpounding. Mitchell’s movie is all dank, freaky mood: static panoramas, wide angles, disturbingly long takes, creeping dread, dream logic, haunting retro-electronic scores, naked men standing calmly on roofs. Everything is underexplained on purpose, meaning that watching It Follows feels like trying to hold onto the rapidly deteriorating memory of a nightmare you had, the one that woke you up at 4 a.m., temporarily paralyzed, unable to fully describe what’d you’d just seen. Mitchell never tips his hand as to when the movie’s events take place, peppering scenes with surreal, outside-of-time details like a shell e-reader and black-and-white TV sets playing old horror films. B-plots peek out of the background, never elaborated upon (What happened between Jay and Greg? Where are everyone’s parents? Why is Yara always asleep or reading Dostoevsky? Did Greg’s mom just … fuck him to death?). Even banal background scenes, like a professor reading a poem aloud in class or a family gathered lovingly around a hospital bed, are rendered horrifying in their monotony and ambiguity.
But the sex demon itself, varied as it is in appearance and vibe, is the most gleefully mysterious by-product of Mitchell’s mind. It’s never made clear why the sex demon is stalking people, what its motivations are, or what the sex demon is (animal? plant? mineral?). We don’t know why the demon sometimes takes on the form of its victims’ loved ones or why it’s sometimes just a tall giant with holes for eyes. I simply love this iconic demon, which is why I paid tribute to it with the #ItFollowsChallenge, a very famous and viral social-media phenomenon that definitely happened and is continuing to happen. Ahead of my Friday Night Movie Club It Follows livetweet, I decided to honor this nebulous legend by ranking its various iterations according to the following internationally agreed-upon demon criteria: how quickly it walks, how disturbing its chosen form is, how obvious it is that it’s a demon and not a real person, how jarringly its attire (or lack thereof) contrasts with its setting, and its overall swagger. The sex demon with the most points (5 points per category, 25 possible points total per demon) wins, uh, my eternal respect.
11. Girl in the Yellow Dress
The girl in the yellow dress does not actually appear onscreen, but is referenced in the first ten minutes of the film by Jay’s date as “the girl in the yellow dress, standing in the back of the theater.” He is so frightened by her that the two leave the movie before it even begins.
Pace: Clearly very slow, since the two are able to leave before she catches up with them. 1 point.
Contrast of attire and setting: Wearing a yellow dress to a movie is disappointingly normal, especially in Michigan. 1 point.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Girl seems to be unknown to all parties. However, the audience can’t see her, which is scary in its own way. 3 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Even the guy being stalked by a demon does not know for sure if she is a demon. 1 point.
Overall swagger: Swagger essentially nonexistent. 1 point.
Total sex-demon points: 7
10. Girl Who Pees on Herself in Kitchen
This girl pees on herself in Jay’s kitchen.
Pace: Very slow. Perhaps due to the peeing. 1 point.
Contrast of attire and setting: Dress half off, bra half off, peeing. If you’re going to look like this anywhere, probably best in a kitchen. 2 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: This sex-demon iteration seems to be pretending to be drunk or impersonating a victim of sexual assault. Deeply disturbing. 5 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: 100 percent this gal is a demon and she knows it and she loves it. 5 points.
Overall swagger: Unfortunately this demon does not have a ton of swag. 1 point.
Total sex-demon points: 14
9. Old Woman on College Campus
Pace: Slow, due to compression socks. 2 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: White nightgown, said compression socks, normal shoes. Rare in a college-campus setting. 4 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Jay doesn’t seem to recognize the old woman, which means the demon is not, say, pretending to be her grandma. However, it is notably unsettling to consider being sex-murdered by an old woman in compression socks. 3 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Subtler than some of the other demons thanks to her kindly little nightgown and those little socks. 3 points.
Overall swagger: She’s definitely got swag and it’s all in the choice of shoes. 3 points.
Total sex-demon points: 15
8. This Gal
Who is she?
Pace: Medium fast. Walks rapidly after Jay at the beach; she is the third iteration of the sex demon on this particular beach day. 4 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: A white dress. With the exception of Yellow Dress and Girl Peeing in Kitchen, all of the demons appear to be wearing white. Because it is chic! Anyway, it’s weird to wear this to the beach but I suppose it could be considered a cover-up. 4 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Not very disturbing, mostly because we have no idea who This Gal even is. She’s just a gal. 3 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Not obvious, perhaps she just needs a tampon. 3 points.
Overall swagger: Hair is pretty on point here. But the dress, again, is off. 2 points.
Total sex-demon points: 17 points
7. Naked Woman in Parking Garage
The naked woman in the parking garage is the first sex demon who appears in front of Jay as she’s handcuffed to a wheelchair and screaming.
Pace: 12 centimeters per second. (I did not count.) She’s going kinda slow compared to other sex demons. 2 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: Shocking to be nude in a parking garage in suburban Michigan in what seems to be the fall. 4 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Naked woman in parking garage is one of the only sex-demon iterations to appear fully nude. She looks great! 3 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: If a naked woman slowly walks towards you, expressionless, in a parking lot in the middle of the night, she is a demon for sure. 5 points.
Overall swagger: Overflowing with low-key swag. 4 points.
Total sex-demon points: 18
6. Giant Man with Holes for Eyes
This man follows Yara (sleepy, as always) into Jay’s bedroom. He is so tall.
Pace: Very fast as he is so tall. 5 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: Ripped T-shirt and khakis. Classic bedroom attire. Nothing shocking here. 1 point.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Mostly upsetting because he is so tall. Does not seem to be related to the central characters in any way. 4 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Too tall not to be a demon. 5 points.
Overall swagger: He’s got a lot of swag and I would say most of it comes from his eye holes. 4 points.
Total sex-demon points: 19
5. Greg’s Mom
Greg’s mom knocks on his door, kills him, then has sex with him.
Pace: Greg’s mom doesn’t move until she attacks him, during which point she moves very quickly. 5 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: Greg’s mom is wearing a nightgown with one boob hanging out in her own home, which is normal. However, it is not normal to open your son’s door in a nightgown with your boob hanging out. 5 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Greg’s mom fucks him to death. Pretty disturbing, even in America where there are no taboos left. 5 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Would not be obvious save for one boob hanging out. 3 points.
Overall swagger: Zero swag. Absolutely top-to-bottom swagless. 1 point.
Total sex-demon points: 19
4. Freaky Yara
Freaky Yara is not to be confused with Real Yara. Freaky Yara is a sex demon.
Pace: Medium. Akin to Real Yara. 4 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: Jean shorts and a tank top. At the beach! All seems fine here. 1 point.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Highly. Very upsetting if a sex demon takes on the form of your best friend who is also in front of you, swimming. 5 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: 100 percent obvious as the Real Yara is already there. 5 points.
Overall swagger: Too much swag. A frightening amount of swag. More swag than Real Yara, which makes it all the more suspicious. 5 points.
Total sex-demon points: 20
3. Small Scary Boy
Small Scary Boy is what Freaky Yara transforms into after she is flouted at the beach. He’s small, he’s scary, and he screams.
Pace: Supernaturally fast, very good at crawling through door holes. 5 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: An all-white outfit that includes suspenders. Extremely unusual Michigan beach-town attire. 5 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Rather disturbing considering he is a small unattended child trying to sex-kill. 3 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Very obvious, mostly around the eyes, which have a similarly hole-esque nature to the giant man. 5 points.
Overall swagger: The suspenders are extremely swaggy. 5 points.
Total sex-demon points: 23 points
2. Pool Guy into Electronics
The pool man, who may or may not be Kelly and Jay’s absentee/dead/abusive father (as hinted at in the family photos and lack of parental presence and Jay’s general distrust of men), tries to kill Jay by hurling electronics at her in the pool.
Pace: Throws electronics very fast. 5 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: Wearing boxers and a white tank at the pool. Unusual. Certainly would arouse suspicion at the local indoor Y. 4 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: Highly. Jay’s dead/absent/abusive dad is trying to murder her via physics at her childhood pool. 5 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: Incredibly obvious. If your father is trying to kill you by throwing a hair dryer at you in a pool, please remember: He is probably a demon. 5 points.
Overall swagger: Outfit has extreme dad-at-home swag. 5 points.
Total sex-demon points: 24 points
1. Naked Roof Man
Naked roof man is the most terrifying It Follows sex demon. He’s naked, he’s on a roof. He’s got a full bush. He looms.
Pace: He does not move in the scene wherein he appears, but I have to assume he is fast as he scampered up a roof, naked. 5 points.
Contrast of attire and setting: No attire, on a roof. Extreme outfit/setting contrast. 5 points.
Disturbingness of chosen form: The most disturbing. I don’t ever want to see a naked man on a roof! 5 points.
Obviousness of demonic nature: See a naked man on a roof? Full bush? Kinda looming? He’s a demon. 5 points.
Overall swagger: More confidence and swagger than everyone I know put together. 5 points.
Total sex-demon points: 25 points
It Follows is available to stream on Shudder and to rent on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes.
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