Really well-done horror film, a masterful balance of call backs to the classic horror films, especially those from the 1970s and 1980s, while saying something new and creating something likely to be a new classic. This film manages to create a terrifying menace, one with just vague enough mythos behind it (and symbolism attached to it) to encourage fan speculation and fire the imagination while being concrete and vivid enough to have something to really latch on to (unlike say the ghosts in many horror films, or generic like zombies, which as scary and entertaining as they can be aren’t singularly iconic).
The film centers on Jay Height (played by Maika Monroe), a young college student in the Detroit area going to Oakland University. She goes on a date with a guy and after they have consensual and apparently enjoyable sex, the guy, Hugh, drugs her. Jay wakes up tied to a chair still in her underwear and Hugh, nervously looking around, explains to Jay the new Rules, that there is a relentless killer after her now, always walking, its physical form will change but will always be a person, sometimes someone she knows, often not, who will be after her forever. She can get in a car and go somewhere, but the killer will always find her and the killer gets to her, she dies. Only Jay can see it unless she passes the curse on to someone else by having sex (and then they both can see it). If that person dies, then the killer goes after the next person in the line (which would be her) and then the next (Hugh). Oh and only she can see it, I can’t emphasize that enough. Good luck!
Dumping Jay unceremoniously in her front yard still in her underwear before driving off, Jay’s sister Kelly, her two friends Paul and Yara, and Jay’s and Kelly’s neighbor Greg rush to help her, first disbelievingly and largely because they think she was raped, but later because scary weird story or not, their sister/friend needs their help.
The film has very few adults, almost none really, focusing on how a group of teens (maybe Greg is in his twenties, I don’t know, but I think Jay is 19 and if not the oldest the next oldest). They track down Hugh, try to research how to help Jay, and formulate various plans to protect Jay and defeat a creature only Jay can see (but as we find out, can definitely harm the others).
Great tension, it had me constantly scanning any crowd for a slowly approaching figure, recognizable somehow every time from a distance despite the fact it could look like anyone, young or old, man or woman, dressed or nude (ok nude was a giveaway), familiar or a complete stranger. Like a Terminator, it simply would not stop. You could best it temporarily, maybe, but it would always relentless track down and approach Jay no matter what, as driving away could buy time but only so much. It didn’t have an axe or a chainsaw or giant wolverine claws, just a methodical dead eyed stare right at Jay, silently walking, arms at its side, always approaching. If it got to her, as established in the prologue of the film, Jay would die a gruesome and painful death.
The movie was set today, as one character has some sort of tablet ereader and I saw at least one cell phone being used and there are modern cars, but it also felt a lot like the 1970s and 1980s. Overall cell phone use was very rare, no one was on social media, one of the characters drives a 1980s style station wagon we see a lot in the film, Jay’s and Kelly’s house interior looks like it could be in the 1970s with its décor, and in the film old black and white monster movies are often on the TV. The music is mostly synthesizer music and would not at all be out of place in a 1980s Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween movie.
I liked the movie. Good tension, good action, I liked the use of the southern Michigan/Detroit setting (not just window dressing), the teens seemed smart and capable and didn’t make obvious bad decisions (except when it came to sex, even well into the film when all the characters know the Rules), and I liked how they fought back hard against the monster. It seemed both a love letter to the past (even a scene where people look at old Playboys of a sort, or at least magazines clearly meant to be Playboys) but also established a new horror, that wasn’t just wallowing in nostalgia but a new terror that I am still thinking about. And yes, as discussed in other reviews, the whole concept of the film is just filled with symbolism about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, how women are viewed, and related topics ripe for discussion. Oh and though there is a good bit of implied sex occasionally the monster was nude there wasn't really any graphic nudity. Even the Playboy stand ins I don't remember had any nudity.