Could we be on the cusp of a new golden age of horror films? On the heels of last year's acclaimed "The Babadook" comes writer-director David Robert Mitchell's "It Follows," another smart, relentlessly chilling thriller that opts for originality over cheaply rejiggered jolts.
Set in an unnamed American town at a deliberately vague time, the film is built around Jay (an impressive Maika Monroe), a college student who's stalked by increasingly violent apparitions after a seemingly casual sexual encounter.
While it taps that time-honored (especially the '70s) horror movie trope that presents the "monster" as a cautionary metaphor for teen promiscuity, "It Follows" adeptly layers in creepy subtext and intensely pitched nightmarish dread to nerve-jangling effect.
Also welcome are the convincing performances by Monroe and young, fresh-faced cast mates playing relatable characters who don't fall prey to the bone-headed moves that tend to typify contemporary horror-flick behavior.
Further accentuating the unsettling mood is a rumbling electronic ambient score by Disasterpeace and the incorporation of a natural soundscape that manages to make chirping crickets sound menacing.
Mitchell, who directed the 2010 film "The Myth of the American Sleepover," delivers here a welcome breath of fresh scares.
MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, language.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Playing: ArcLight Hollywood.