After giving in to her desire to have sex with a guy she was dating, Jay, played by Maika Monroe, starts to be pursued by a supernatural creature that takes the form of different people, but that no one else can see. She later finds out that this is a curse and there is no way to stop it, only postpone it by having sex with someone else.
The concept of this film is excellent and fairly unique, as unique as a supernatural monster slowly walking towards their victim is at least! It’s an intriguing concept having this creature’s next victim chosen by the current victim in a weird sort of way, obviously being an allegory for sexually transmitted infections. In that sense, this film is the perfect safe-sex advocate without being preachy at all, nothing is ever stated about trying protection in the film, just a lot of people having unprotected sex lead to this creature pursuing them.
The performances are solid and the rapport between the group of friends is believable, if a little overly scripted. Jay, our protagonist, is a university student that, despite having unprotected sex with a guy she knows little about, is shown to be an intelligent, if withdrawn and awkward girl with a few close friends and Maika Monroe absolutely sells that performance, especially the subtly awkward aspects of her personality. These are the type of friends that weren’t complete outsiders, but weren’t the super popular kids either, though they assumed themselves to be alt-cool.
In that aspect, the cast of friends were great, believable, and sympathetic to the audience. However, there is the case of Jay’s boyfriend, Hugh, played by Jake Weary, whom while he gives as good a performance as the rest of the cast, the writing around his character is baffling. Jay and her group of friends are understanding and sympathetic, despite what Hugh did to her the previous day! It is a baffling choice to make from a story standpoint, and definitely raises character consistency questions. Nevertheless, that particular plot point signaled a shift in the story that cut off the legs of a great concept.
There is a huge shift in the story about half way through the film. The slow eerie pace is gone and is replaced with a bombardment of “moments” instead of steadily building the story. It absolutely cuts the legs off the concept and alters the tone significantly for the worse. The ending scene especially is groansome and becomes painful to watch as this brilliant concept is given such a poor ending. Comparing the opening scene to the ending is like two different films, like comparing ‘Apocalypse Now’ to ‘Pearl Harbor’. It’s so on the nose and cliché that it’s like the audience is being hit in the face with an iron.
The film is beautifully and bleakly shot, showing the despair that everyone in the town is dealing with, dilapidated buildings, stores going out of business, run down houses, and unkempt gardens. Having the film set in a failing town combined with the ageless aspects of the film, i.e. some people using mobile phones, but having old CRT televisions, as well as driving old cars. Allows the film to play with the story and use whatever fits the tone of the scene, in the opening a girl uses a mobile phone, but no other characters do that throughout the film. It adds to the eeriness of the film and with things seeming so out of place, it subtly puts the audience in an uneasy mental state.
The score is brilliantly creepy and unsettling, a lot of electronic and synthesised sounds, almost reminiscent of the original ‘Halloween’ score and that is never a bad thing! The music effortlessly builds tension, having just a person walking become tense is certainly a special feat and this score consistently delivers on that aspect throughout, even towards the end of the film where the story becomes ropey, the score is still strong and effective.
The concept of the story is fascinating, and the score is brilliant, while the film loses its footing in the latter half, it is still absolutely worth a watch as an effective and semi-unique horror film.