There’s something spectacularly frightening about a horror film that perfectly captures the feeling of Midwest suburbia. John Carpenter set the template for this in Halloween, making the suburban streets of Illinois look more frightening than ever. Now David Robert Mitchell has done the same thing with It Follows, taking the horror from Illinois to Michigan. John Carpenter influences abound, but Mitchell’s second feature film is still very much its own thing. There’s an inherent creepiness and unease that’s saturated every frame and there’s no denying that Mitchell can get under your skin. It may alienate some audience members, but for those that can appreciate its look at the loss of innocence and the dangers of adulthood, It Follows will prove to be one of the best horror films in recent years.

Jay Height (Maika Monroe) is a young college student without a care in the world. She spends her afternoons floating around in the pool and her nights going on dates with a handsome guy named Hugh (Jake Weary). After going on several dates together, Jay and Hugh decide to have sex. Once it’s over with, Hugh knocks out Jay with chloroform and ties her to a chair. Hugh tells Jay that he just passed something on to her. Some form of supernatural entity is now going to follow her and it won’t stop until she’s dead. This being can take the form of anyone and the only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone else and pass it off to them. Soon, Jay notices strange people walking towards her and she begins to think that what Hugh said might actually be true.

What separates It Follows from most modern horror films is that it’s not just about the scares. Mitchell makes sure that his film is actually about something and it carries just as much dramatic heft as a film outside of the horror genre would. The allegory to sexually transmitted diseases is obvious, but this isn’t just a film about the dangers of hooking up. Watching these characters waste their time away in the suburbs, drinking on the porch and watching old movies shows the lack of responsibility that they have, all the while people are suffering in the city that is only miles away. This concept is highlighted expertly when one character recounts how her parents would never let her travel south of 8 mile. It’s no coincidence that there isn’t a single adult figure present throughout the entire film. These kids have lived cushy, comfortable lives and that’s all about to change as they enter adulthood. Obviously this film is about the terror of a supernatural being, but it’s just as much about the fear of leaving childhood and being forced to grow up.

But is the film actually scary? No, not in the traditional sense. There’s definitely a discomforting tone that permeates the film, but not every scene is as terrifying as it might try to be. There are some great horror moments though, with an early scene in Jay’s house being by far the scariest. Visually the film looks great, thanks to Mike Gioullakis’ lensing and the strange visuals of the people that follow our characters. Jay is followed by an old woman in a nightgown, a giant of a man, a young boy and many others. You never know what form this supernatural creature will take and that alone is quite frightening. It’s also refreshing to have a film where the supernatural entity doesn’t receive an explanation at all. We never learn what this thing is or why it chooses to follow people and that makes the concept even more intriguing.

It’s shocking to me that It Follows is receiving a nationwide release because it’s so unlike everything that most people expect in a horror film. But this uniqueness is what makes the film truly great and Mitchell has crafted something truly refreshing that stands out from all the typical horror films that seem to blend together. The performances from all the young actors are strong and the John Carpenter-esque score by Disasterpeace is a real highlight. Despite a plot that can feel repetitive and some underutilized characters, this is one coming-of-age horror tale that you don’t want to miss.

It Follows receives 3.5/4