I have only been hearing great things about It Follows since it came out. I’m super glad that it managed to get on my list for this year. I love when a horror movie plays with tension and dread; letting it mount over the course of the film instead of relying entirely on jump scares. Not to say that jump scares aren’t useful tools but some people have that as their only tool and when all you got is a hammer all your plot points start to look like nails.
Our story follows Jay, a young college girl. After she has a sexual encounter with a guy that she’s been seeing, it turns out that he was only trying to sleep with her so that he could pass on a curse that was given to him. Anyone that has been so cursed can see a shapechanging entity that walks towards the latest victim in order to kill them. It never goes above a walk but it never tires and it never stops. The only way to make it stop coming after you is to pass it on to someone else but if they die instead of pass it on, it will go right on back down the line. You can always run from it, there is always the chance for reprieve, but no matter where you are, you can be certain that it is walking directly toward you.
The tension in this film is amazing. Nobody in the movie acts like an idiot for the sake of plot or so they can get murdered. You have a constant threat that is both seemingly incredibly weak and entirely unstoppable. This is the perfect example of having a super powerful, unkillable monster but that power only serves to heighten the tension instead of negate it. You can always run from it, you can fight against it, and even though it doesn’t appear as though you can kill it, you can find reprieve from it. The fact that the characters are all teens is great thematically (which I’ll get into) but also practically for the purpose of the movie because they are all fairly limited in mobility and cash such that it’s not exactly practical to hop a plane when the thing gets near. Much like the best zombie films, it’s frightening because of the inevitability of the threat rather than the power of it.
The various themes in this are handled incredibly well. The obvious one of STDs and the risk of casual sex is probably the easiest but also the least interesting. The movie plays a lot with the inherent risks and issues that come with female sexuality beyond just catching a disease. The first time we are introduced to the main character the film goes out of its way to establish that she is the object of the male gaze as neighbor kids watch her in the pool. The scene where she first encounters the monster is also done mainly with a static shot of her tied to a chair in her underwear; inviting the viewer to sexualize her even as she is going through trauma. The monster is itself much like a stalker that keeps coming for her and if she ever has sex with someone else, it will kill that person. Of all the themes, the monster as a metaphor for the trauma of rape is probably the most developed.
After her sexual encounter she ends up being assaulted by the guy as he tries to explain what the curse is and how she has to avoid it. While the sex was initially consensual, the violence is definitely associated with sex and very rapey in nature. After the incident, we have a scene where Jay stands at a mirror and then looks at her own vagina with a mixed look of betrayal and sadness and while that happens we also see the neighbor kid still trying to peep on her. She has to deal with the disbelief of her friends and feels like she can’t share what she is going through with anyone in authority. Sex becomes a terrifying prospect for her and it isn’t until the end that she is able to accept that while she can’t get rid of what has happened to her, sharing that burden with someone she cares for makes it easier to live with.
I love this movie and have so few nitpicks for it. While some movies make me question the premise because of how silly it is, this movie made my mind race with questions about it that made me even more interested in the story. I actually googled what the average walking speed is during the movie so I could figure out how far you would need to go just to get a good night’s sleep. I give the movie a 5 out of 5 and definitely recommend it.
Favorite part of the movie: There are a lot of shots with someone casually walking toward the camera in the background that never get revealed if they are the thing or not. It’s just this ever present paranoia.
Least favorite part: A lot of the music for the movie was oddly video game like. Like a bunch of chip tune tracks that seemed more at home in an old school JRPG than a horror movie.