Monday Movie Musings: It Follows (2015)

It Follows is not your traditional horror movie. It plays with a lot of the conventions and builds on your expectations, tweaking them ever so slightly to amp up the tension. However, I honestly can say that I didn't find it scary or creepy. Nothing made me jump, though there are (thankfully) few moments where they do a simple jump scare. That being said, I've seen it twice now and can't stop thinking about it or talking to my friends and family and trying to convince them to see it with me.

It Follows is about Jay, a (high-school) girl who sleeps with this guy she's been dating, only to be knocked out, strapped to a wheelchair, and told that he's passed something to her and that It is going to follow her. To get It to stop, she just needs to sleep with someone and It will move on to them. But, until she does, It will always be following her, walking in a straight line to her location. If It catches her, she dies. If she passes it along and that person is caught, It will come after her again. Worst of all, It can and will look like friends, family, or complete strangers. No one can be trusted. And It will not stop.

It's the stuff of nightmares. Of '80s horror movies. Somehow more unsettling than the Ring, because even if you pass it along, it can end up coming after you again. 

For me and most of the people I talk to, it's easy to pass this off as a metaphor for STDs. What struck me while watching it is that it's more about sexual assault. It does not shy away from this imagery right after she's dumped on the ground, in only her underwear, by her one-time lover. Police are called, she's traumatized, but adults are not apart of this equation. They are relegated to side conversations or background noise the few times they actually show up. The rest of the film, it is up to these teenagers in a timeless, decaying Detroit to deal with this transgression, as well with the creature that relentlessly pursues Jay. Part of the plot is her group of friends, along with their neighbor Greg, tracking down the man who gave this to her so that they can learn what it is.

The film, however, has no interest in exploring the monster's origins. It simply is. You understand the rules or you die.

While I said that the movie was not creepy or scary to me, it was interesting. The camera and even the characters don't cooperate with where you, the viewer, want to look or focus on. Because It is always walking, you are given characters both in and out of focus that are walking straight toward the camera (and, by extension, the main character), but the camera will cut away or lazily continue to turn until it focuses on something that is important to the plot, but is not the creature that no one else has realized is there. Even the group of friends will simply drive past it without recognizing the threat they are in. When the creature does get in close proximity to its target, the forms it chooses are broken, with either no clothing or askew clothing that reveals their bodies.

All these details solidify for me that this isn't about Herpes or any other form of STD, but instead about being assaulted. It's not about the direct threat or body dysmorphia. Her body doesn't revolt against her now that it's been "infected." It's about dealing with (sexual) trauma and how it resides with you long after the violation has occurred. There are moments when all is calm and Jay seems to have come to terms with it, only to have the eponymous It show back up and remind her that this has happened to her and she will be dealing with it for the rest of her life. She's forced to make decisions that she wouldn't normally make, especially when it comes to her sexual partners. There's one uncomfortable scene that's never resolved (and it doesn't need to be). After one of Jay's inner circle is caught by the creature, Jay drives away, only to spot three men on a boat in the distance. She strips to her underwear and enters the water. Hard cut to her driving home, tears sliding down her face.

There's a simple, direct way to interpret this, but a conversation she has with one of her friends reveals that it might not have gone down that way. Even still, it calls into question the rules and how the monster would function in that sort of scenario. However, time is odd in this movie and, within a few on-screen minutes, the creature shows up again.

While I'm deliberately jumping around her, I will mention the ending. It is demonstrated several times in the film that the creature is immortal (or at least can't die by traditional means). The ending is ambiguous, as it should be, with the fate of the monster, as well as with the group that is left over. In the last shot, Jay has found a companion and they are walking down the street, hand in hand, and in the deep background, you see someone walking towards them from behind. It could be the creature, but they have played with that concept in the movie, and could just be another person out walking. For me, it strengthens what I've already talked about: that this will be something that haunts them for the rest of their lives. This is not as "simple" as a STD, but instead a psychological trauma that will not go away.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.