It Follows: It Hunts, And It Fucking Kills

In a culture where the modern horror movie genre is filled with remakes, sequels, and comedies, it is refreshing to see a legitimately terrifying original story. I didn’t know the director or any of the actors, I went into It Follows barely knowing anything about the plot. I really only checked out the movie because people refuse to stop talking about how good it is. After one single viewing, I already know I’ve been infected and have become one of those people. It Follows is phenomenally made and give audience members something new to fear. There isn’t a cartoonish villain or characters making dumb decisions. Instead we are offered a very real story where you never know if the person coming your way is coming to take your life.

 

Sexually Transmitted Demon

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I just lied, there was actually one thing I did know going into It Follows; it had something to do with sex. The summary, which is beautifully explained in the movie after the main character, Jay (played by Maika Monroe), is infected, is how a person is targeted by ‘It’. It will walk in your direction forever until It kills you. Nothing can stop It. The only way to survive is by handing It off to another person. The way to give the target to someone else, is to have sex with them. Once you do, It will follow them instead. When It kills someone, It will continue to follow the previous host.

The audience doesn’t exactly need to jump through a lot of hoops to make the connection that ‘It’ is a metaphor for STDs. Throughout the film, this metaphor perfectly captures the fear most people have; catching a disease from a lover. It can take the shape and form of anyone. Your boyfriend/girlfriend, the person you make you go to school with, the work flirt, or a complete stranger. Often It will go out of the way to disturb the target, like taking the shape of their sister half naked and beaten. The movie paints terrifying scenes with this imagery. Jay feels that at any point, anyone can kill her. The fear of unknowing fits with diseases. Aids doesn’t look demonic, it looks like a normal person, who is innocent until they have sex and curse their lover to a deadly disease. It kills through sex.

The other half of this sexually filled metaphor is a bit more subtle but hits the audience harder. Once infected, Jay struggles with the burden she now has. Any sexual encounter is knowingly handing over a death sentence. In the movie, Jay has sex with a man named Greg (played by Daniel Zovatto). Greg is seen throughout the movie flirting with multiple women, even Jay’s sister. He represents the type of person that doesn’t take the responsibility of an STD serious and would spread the infection. But the main point is how Jay feels after Greg is killed. She knows the responsibility and consequences of having It. Eventually she ends up sharing that burden with another chaacter that is in love with her.

Paul (played by Keir Gilchrist) is the love sick boy that represents a real group of people out there. He fully knows and understands what being with Jay will mean. I love the end of this movie because of Paul. Jay has sex with Paul, and unlike the several other times she has sex throughout the movie, this scene has real love and passion involved. The couple decide to give It to a prostitute and try to live their lives. Paul can share Jay’s burden. When you have an STD, the only life you can have is with someone else that will also have that disease and still love you. The movie ends with the two of them walking down the street, hands together, never knowing if they will be hunted and killed by what is following them. It is coming for them eventually. If you live with an STD, a life isnt over. You do still get to live, work and be happy in some respect. However, burning in the back on your mind will always know that the life ending disease can always come for you. And you really can’t stop It.

 

An Original Monster

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David Robert Mitchell wrote and directed something original and rare. Although I do love the concept of a monster being a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases, It Follows is more than that. The antagonist (It) is a shape shifting killing machine. Unlike many other monsters/villains in the genre, this movie doesn’t try to cash in on a marketable image. The monster doesn’t have a pure form and there are no one liners or catch-phrases. At first I considered It to be closer to a force of nature than an actual villain. Something that simply follows the rules. However, there is a scene that changed my mind and made me realize how scary It actually is. After Jay has given It to Greg, she realizes It is trying to kill Greg and breaks into his house. She follows It. She sees It in the hallway, It looks back at her and does nothing. A force of nature wouldn’t have have looked back at Jay. An animal hunting wouldn’t change shape into her naked father and stand on the roof mocking her. It isn’t the spirit of vengeance, a serial killer, or a shit talking demon, but it does have intelligence. Later in the movie, Jay and Paul, along with Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Kelly (Lili Sepe) attempt to trap It in a pool but the plan doesn’t work because It still can think for itself. I’ve spend days thinking about how to fight It if I was to carry the curse and continually find holes in the plan. David Robert Mitchell made something new that makes its audience actually scared while at the same time paying homage to the horror movies of the past.

It Follows is a beautifully shot horror movie. The cinematography is on another level. The wide shots and fixed spinning camera create an unsettling visual atmosphere. When combined with Disasterpiece’s soundtrack, the viewer is trapped; we no longer have control of our emotions. The different genres of horror have a lot of differences and to each their own but there is an element from the slow burn thrillers of the 1980’s that is lost in many new films. Even movies and shows today that try to recreate the 80’s feeling (like Stranger Things) miss the elements that It Follows incorporates. This movie deserves to share space with the greats like Jaws and The Thing. It is a legitimately terrifying movie that affects the way to look at the world around you, plays off the fears we already have, and creates new ones to haunt our dreams. Next time we see someone walking in our direction, we might take an extra second to see where they are heading. When you see two people in love, what diseases (and demons) might be getting transferred. It Follows the audience, even after the movie has ended and we go home believing we are safe.

 

Movie watched and film analysed by: Troy Smith

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