I had watched It Follows (2014) before seeing it in class. I was with a bunch of friends and it was a sleepover. We chose a horror movie to scare ourselves, but we just ended up talking to each other while the movie was on. Eventually we fell asleep. So yes, technically I have not watched the movie fully, but I knew what it was about and to me it was kind of boring. When I learned we were watching this movie for class, I kept telling my friends the movie was not going to be worth our time.
Now that I watched it again, I take what I said back.
It seemed dull and boring to me at first because the movie was kind of quiet, unlike other horror films which had full on scary background music and screams all throughout. It Follows had lesser of that, plus add to the fact that I was not paying attention the first time around. But the second time I watched it, I realized that those minimalist features were what made It Follows a great film. Minimal but primal is how I would describe it.
Minimal—because the movie had a lot of quiet, reflection moments. It featured a lot of close-ups. Minimal because only a few people believed “it” that followed the characters existed, and so only select people were involved. Primal—because it put the spotlight on an instinct or desire us humans deal with greatly every day: to have sex. It may be a basic thing for us, but it is also powerful. It can drive us to do so many things we never thought we would do.
It Follows may also be treated as a coming of age film… that went wrong. Centering on teenagers who had the knack for dating, first kisses, and discovering sex, the film was primarily about how that desire to fit in could go wrong. Especially when your life is on the line after having a great time.
Jay (Maika Monroe) got caught up in this mess after having sex with her date Hugh (Jake Weary). Hugh had been tagged and intended to pass it on to another girl, who happened to be Jay. By having sex with someone who had been “tagged” the other becomes the “it.” When Jay got tagged, there was another “it” referring to this ghost who could change features and who followed her around, waiting to kill. The only way to save herself was by having sex again and pass the curse on.
Have sex or get killed.
What a nightmare to have opened herself up to danger only because she wanted to have fun like all teenagers did. In this film we see how Jay struggled with this. She did not want to have sex with just about anyone, let alone pass the curse. But she had to. We see how friends like Paul (Keir Gilchrist) had been offering help, but Jay oftentimes refused. She did not want to put her friends in danger, but she also did not want the curse to stop with her. There was no way out of this nightmare but do it. But then again, even when she passed it on, if the next set of people failed, it would be up to her once again. Really, there was no way out. Sex, once a tool for pleasure, now became a tool for survival. How primal indeed. What was worse was she could not go off and preach to people what was happening, because only the ones who got tagged could see the ghost—she would only be treated like a fool. Minimal, again. Few people would understand and that was how lonely this battle for survival was.
A lot of people I talked with said the movie and the “It” that followed the characters around signified the spread of sexually transmitted diseases of STDs. I think this is in line with how none of the characters were safe from the ghost, may they be boys or girls. In the same way, having STDs is not particular to a gender or sexual orientation and this is a vital message to tell everyone. But again, minimal and primal. Not everyone would understand what a person with STDs is going through, especially after only wanting to satisfy a natural desire.
This is congruent with the theme of how having too much fun can put you in danger. If you are not careful about your actions, you can get yourself in trouble. Each of your move matters and it can have adverse effects too despite having no intention for that whatsoever. It can be something bad like having an “It” follow you throughout your life or like having STDs. Being in such a situation can be hard and emotionally draining, but with the right kinds of people surrounding you, you can get through it. What you do not need is people telling you how bad you got yourself into or condemning your every action. Oftentimes we are afraid to tell people we know about the bad choices and the consequences we acquired. But when we truly have great people around us, we can find a way out or a way to deal with such. What you need are people helping and supporting you as you get through this—much like how Jay and her family and friends were beside her all throughout the film. Following your natural desires and being you is not wrong but when you get in a hard situation, it is always better to do something than outright give up and let your mistakes consume you.
The lessons I picked up from this film is a lot and you can tell with how much I tried fitting some into this post. By now I am starting to think that horror films intend to scare you, but not just that. They scare you into learning something. As for It Follows? It scared me into thinking about my actions and consequences even more (but not just with sexual desires and such!) I would not want something like Jay’s dilemma happening to me wouldn’t I?