It Follows is the hugely popular horror film of the year so far. If you missed the myriad of thinkpieces that followed (*I chuckle to myself*) this film around the internet, from it’s festival debut at Cannes last year, to TIFF and beyond, then you’ve just not been reading about film or really could care less. Some have described it as a rape horror, or as STD fear inducing scare-fest. I honestly don’t know what to think of it, but holy shit guys! I’m scared.
I’ve spoken many times about my feelings towards horror. It’s one of the genres where the region for ‘meh’ feelings have the widest berth of which all these films tend to land. I’ve found however, over the last few years that there are two kinds of films of the genre that truly work for me:
- When it takes it super serious. This is where the film almost forgets that it’s supernatural in any way and makes me frightened for our characters. It could be a guy in a mask running down the street or, or just going fully into a fear that the film makes me somehow feel even though I don’t have fears (because I’m a ‘man’); or
- When it plays fun with the fact that horror movies are inherently not scary, because they’re movies. This is the easier of the two options for filmmakers to get me if I’m being honest. When a film can make a mockery of the genre, whether through honestly satire or spoof, or just simply be so ridiculous but have the characters keep the seriousness going in their eyes then that will work too.
What I love about It Follows is that in some degree the film does both, and perfectly so.
The film is about a being, let’s call it ‘It’ for now, that follows our protagonist without prejudice or reluctance. This is precluded by her having sex with a random boy. After having sex it’s explained to her that the only way for ‘It’ to stop following her is for her to have sex with another person and pass’It’ along.
With that simple pretense the film spring boards itself into true dread when the ridiculousness of it’s premise becomes a real threat. We see this being following out protagonist and we’re afraid because more than anything else we don’t understand this force. It’s beyond us, everytime we try to apply our worldly logic to it, ‘It’ finds a way to defy it and continue down it’s simplistic forceful path on to our protagonist. This leaves us with the decision of whether to accept our fate, continue to try and figure out how to better ‘It’ or… pass ‘It’ along.
While I don’t want to apply too much thought into the comparable nature of this force and the nasty repercussions of sexual intercourse, STDs, etc.. I do feel that this movie wants us to think of these things while we watch our protagonist run in fear of our demon. It was sex that caused it. It is sex that passes it forward and makes it someone else’s problem and we hope it doesn’t come back to bite at us again. At the same time the film never discusses an alternative. We never make sex into a bad thing, it’s really bad and good. After the first round it’s bad because it gave her this demon, and it ends up being what relieves her of the demon at the same time later. At that point it becomes a heroic act, the act of sex. The only descriptor that would make the first and the last act of intercourse any different is the first felt like sex while the last felt like love. But that may be me placing more thoughts into a scene that really didn’t distinctly discuss it.
More to the point it made sex scary and exciting. It made it a curse and a blessing. This movie made being left at the curb after being drugged (and having consensual sex) possibly the least bad thing about it and that’s a miracle.