It Follows (2014)
Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary
Director of Photography: Mike Gioulakis
Music by Disasterpeace
Edited by Julio C. Perez IV
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell
Rating: 9,5 out of 10
It Follows is an incredibly unique horror movie that almost never does what you expect it to do and constantly challenges and surprises you. It is slow but scary, beautifully filmed and plays with genre conventions while still following the traditions of classic horror movies. That it accomplishes both is impressive all by itself. It is simply amazing to me that this small movie manages to get everything right, astounding cinematography (almost every shot could be framed, not unlike the amazing work of Gregory Crewdson), a fitting score, great performances and a compelling story that is just ambiguous enough to neither be frustrating nor too expository. I also love the unspecified setting, its mix of futuristic and 80s-nostalgia tones. It is a horror masterpiece for which you have to be ready because it’s dreamlike atmosphere is not for everyone. But it’s really, really good. It’s one of those debut movies where you feel every second that someone put all their efforts and passion into making exactly the movie they wanted to make, which turns out to be a great movie.
The central idea of the movie deals with sex. There are already many interpretations for that theme going around, but I want to focus on two aspects. One is that sex is seen here as both threatening and liberating. Yes, if you have sex, you have “it” following you but then sex also helps you to free yourself. It takes sex serious while at the same time not preaching anything. It’s strange, on the one hand sex is clearly connected to the monster that is killing people, but on the other hand the movie treats sexuality as a normal thing, especially for teenagers. There doesn’t seem to be anything morally wrong about them enjoying sex and their bodies. Of course, it also depends on how sex is used. Hugh (Jake Weary) basically exploits Jaime (Maika Monroe, so good) because he knows what he is doing to her by having sex, but without telling her. Throughout the movie, she is completely reluctant to do the same, even if Paul (Keir Gilchrist) would be willing to. This way, sex is shown as having different layers, depending on its intention, on the relationship and so on. The circumstances matter more than the act itself in judging it. Sex itself is not a bad thing, according to the movie. This way it makes sense that while the sex between Hugh and Jaime seems good, the consequence (him kidnapping her) makes it more seem like rape.
Another aspect is the semi-metaness of making sex the prime reason for being chased by the invisible killer. Since the birth of the slasher movies in the 80s, sex has always been used to morally justify killing off teenagers (as I have described in various examples already). This has not changed since Scream made that cliché explicit in 1996. But It Follows confronts the audience so directly with it. You don’t have to draw the conclusion of “If they hadn’t had sex, they’d still be alive!” Here it’s clear – if you have sex, you have to deal with the consequences. But also, unlike the endless examples from the past, it doesn’t simply mean you’ll be slashed. There is a way out, but the victim has a moral choice to make, which elevates it so much more above any of the other movies. Still, I love that the movie makes you think about the concept of sex as a reason for dying in a horror movie even without the meta-discussions of the Scream-series.
Another issue the movie deals with is being a teenager and not yet an adult. The movie only stars teenagers, adults are almost completely invisible or you don’t see their faces. The kids don’t call the police or ask their parents for help because it seems clear that they are on their own. That is a notion typical for our culture and in some way the movie seems to make a statement about it. In one scene, Jaime reminiscences about growing up, how she used to dream about having a date and escaping with that other guy on some sort of road trip.
It was never about going anywhere really. Just having some sort of freedom, I guess. Now that we’re old enough, where the hell do we go?
She says this after having sex (a sign of adulthood) and before realizing the situation she is in. It shows the stark contrast between a teenager’s dream and the scary reality of being an adult, the shock of not feeling ready and helpless. That the monster in the end manifests itself as an adult man (and probably as Jaime’s father) increases that conflict even more. The characters don’t want to grow up. All they’ve seen about adults is ugly and depressing because being an adult in our society is not the fulfillment we are told it is supposed to be. We just become people who wonder where they are supposed to go now, without having adults to ask for help now.
Rewatching the movie just makes me realize that my analysis here barely can do it justice. It is too complex for 900 words of text and it has to be experienced. It’s definitely a movie worth analyzing frame by frame, shot by shot, even if you don’t end up with completely satisfying answers. Which is another great way of portraying the process of growing up.