In cinema, sex and horror go together like bread and butter or politicians and corruption.
The 2014 horror film It Follows uses this trope very…intimately (ouch) and, for the most part, effectively.
The movie starts with a very distraught young woman running from her home and, eventually, driving away. She drives until night and finds herself sitting on a secluded beach while the lights of her car shine on her. She’s on a cell phone talking to her father whom she treated badly before and, between tears, says she never meant to be so mean. It sounds like a deathbed confession/call for forgiveness and, when daylight comes, we realize all too graphically that’s exactly what it was.
From there we’re introduced to Jay Height (Maika Monroe) a gorgeous young woman who lives in what we assume is a broken home. She is not the only one. There is very little parental supervision for seemingly everyone in this neighborhood. Jay has a devoted younger sister (Lili Sepe) and several friends, including a young man whom she’s known since they were children and who all too obviously pines for her.
Jay heads out on a seemingly innocent date with Hugh (Jake Weary) but dark clouds are hinted at. After driving to a distant location Jay and her boyfriend have sex. Afterwards, Jay is knocked unconscious by her boyfriend. When she comes to, she’s tied to a wheelchair and between apologies Hugh tells her he’s transmitted a strange curse onto Jay by having sex with her.
The curse involves a shape-shifting, and slow moving, creature that only the potential victim(s) see. The creature follows you after you have sex with another infected person (kinda/sorta like the curse of the werewolf) and, unless you have sex with someone else to pass the curse along, this creature will follow you until it kills you. Complicating matters, if Jay doesn’t have sex with anyone else and should she be killed by the creature, Hugh says, it will go back to hunting him down.
Of course Jay doesn’t believe him, but then the thing appears in the guise of a nude woman…
In many ways It Follows is like a horror/sexual themed game of “tag”. You’re it, until you’re killed or you get someone else to be “it”.
It Follows features some genuinely frightening scenes, scenes which had me on the edge of my seat. The movie accomplishes this without relying on gore (the most gory segment is presented at the start of the film). Further, the characters -and actors who play them- are all uniformly good.
I would most certainly recommend It Follows to horror fans, but with some caveats. First up, the film is rather slow moving, especially in the opening acts. It takes some time for things to get going, and some may not have the patience to put up with such a slow pace.
Secondly, the film’s makers delight in offering vague possibilities of things that may have happened. The audience is expected to think through what they’ve seen and decide for themselves on things that may have happened, and I suspect there will be those who aren’t happy with many things being up in the air like that (I’ll offer more information after the trailer in a SPOILERS section below).
Finally, as a fan of director John Carpenter, it was all too clear this film used Mr. Carpenter’s original 1978 Halloween as a template. Depending on your tolerance for homages (or, to put it less kindly, rip offs), you may lose patience at the way this movie cribs from that one.
Regardless, I still recommend It Follows. It’s a genuinely scary film with some well earned shocks and will leave you with a sense of unease when all is said and done.
SPOILERS FOLLOW BELOW!
You’ve been warned!!!!
Ok, so I mentioned above It Follows presents vague scenarios which the viewer is meant to interpret. I’ll get into a couple of them and offer my thoughts but, as stated, I do get SPOILERY here.
That was your last warning.
After determining there is indeed some kind of monster coming after her, Jay drives alone very far away from home and falls asleep on her car in some secluded beach area. When she wakes up, it is daytime and she hears the sounds of men talking. She walks to the beach and sees a boat off in the near distance with three men in it. She takes off her pants and, in underwear, walks into the water. We then cut to her driving back home. Her hair is wet and we are left to wonder: Did she have sex with the three men to pass off her curse?
My guess is she did not.
The reason being that the creature is after her once again very -indeed too– quickly. Of course, that isn’t the only interpretation. Perhaps the three men, after having sex with her, remained together and the creature caught up with them all at once. This is certainly a possibility, but my interpretation is that Jay very seriously flirted with the idea of passing off her problem but ultimately did not.
Later still in the film Jay and her friends go to an indoor pool they once frequented as children (water and pools are a recurring motif in this film). The idea is to have Jay go into this very large pool and draw the creature into it. Once inside, Jay swims out and the gang zap the slow moving creature with any of the numerous electric devices they brought with them and have plugged in and waiting beside the pool.
When the creature arrives, Jay is asked what shape it has (again, the creature is only visible to its victims). Jay refuses to say and, in the IMDb page, it is revealed the creature took on the shape of “Mr. Height”, ie Jay’s father. Only those with eagle eyes who notice the family portraits presented earlier in the film will realize this is the final shape of the thing.
Once at the pool area, it is clear the thing does not want to go into the water. It tries to kill Jay by throwing the various objects the gang left around the pool at her. Jay and her friends, however, manage to throw the creature into the water and, apparently, kill it.
The big question is: Do they?
The film ends with Jay giving in to her childhood friend. Their relationship, however, is entirely loveless. Though she sleeps with him, whatever “heat” the boy felt for her is dissipated by the sobering reality of the monster that may still hunt them.
Her new/old boyfriend is seen driving by a pair of (all too obvious) prostitutes after they sleep together and we’re again left to wonder if the curse, now passed on to him, he intends to pass off to them. However, we see him drive on and are left to wonder if he gave in or, like Jay, maybe decided to take responsibility for his actions…if the creature is still alive. (I like to think he, like Jay, realizes it is tempting to pass off the deadly “problem” but decides not to…which is my own subjective view. Again, the movie leaves us without a clear answer)
The movie ends with the pair walking down a sidewalk, hand in hand, while someone walks a ways behind them.
Is it the creature?
We’ll never know…
…Or do we?
Once again the film leaves us to interpret what we see rather than give us straight answers. In this case I suspect the movie’s beginning offers a clue to what happens at the movie’s end.
As I stated before, we start with a young woman running away to a beach and eventually calling her father on her cellphone before becoming, we assume, the first victim movie-goers see of this creature.
If you paid attention you will notice this young woman drives a modern car and talks to her father on a cell-phone.
HOWEVER, the rest of the film presents a time period which very much looks like it belongs in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. All the TVs during the bulk of the movie are the old “glass” panel type. The cars on the streets are older models. None of the characters, except for the one in the opening of the film who drives a modern car, have cell phones. Other than a strange “Kindle” type reading device one of the characters carries, every bit of technology we see is at least thirty years old or more (I have to wonder about that device. It’s stands out as being really out of that era -and ours!- yet was clearly included for some reason in the film. I can’t guess as to why).
If we are to assume the opening act of the film takes place in a our present and the rest of the movie in the past, then we have our answer regarding what happened to Jay and her boyfriend, right?
And it is as downbeat as you think.
Anyway, just some of my own personal thoughts. Yours may well be different.