Horror is alive, and grotesque, in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. The movie is a nostalgic call back to 70s and 80s horror movies where no teenage couple is safe from the clutches of death. The haunting score and eerie atmosphere seamlessly move the horror and characters to their doom (a very John Carpenter vibe). But It Follows ups the ante by creating a monster that feels so much more personal and specific to its victim.
It Follows is director David Robert Mitchell’s breakout film who premiered it at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2014. It stars Maika Monroe as the cursed Jay Height and Lili Sepe as her sister Kelly Height. It also stars Keir Glichirst who also pays a leading role in the Netflix original Atypical (2017).
The plot follows teenage Jay Height as she contracts a deadly curse through sex. Soon after she begins to experience an invisible entity manifested as seemingly random people or people she is familiar with. As mentioned before, the monster’s similarities come from well established monsters from the 70s and 80s. The monster stalks its prey with nothing more than a brisk pace.
The backdrop to match this hellish nightmare is, of course, the teenage years. The film does a good job highlighting the fact that these years are full of uncertainties and mistakes, even without a monster following you. Jay and her friends arguably make questionable decisions throughout the movie that put them in greater danger. They accidentally shoot each other, for example, and purposely infect one another with the curse. It reaches a point that one questions who the real threat is; the monster or the rash teenagers?
An interesting element from which It Follows also draws horror from is the romanticizing of adulthood. Jay reminisces back to a time where she looked forward to dating and staying out late. Soon after this scene, and having sex, she is attacked by Hugh. The film juxtaposes the romantic idea of being an adult with the harsh realities that come with “adulting”. Helplessness, abandonment and death become Jay’s perverse version of adulthood. And as a result adulthood, from the adolescent perspective, becomes nothing but a nightmare.
Since the release of It Follows viewers have debated what exactly is that which follows. Many say the monster is a metaphor for a sexually transmitted disease, which makes a lot of sense considered how it is passed. But I want to offer a different theory that goes beyond a disease.
I want to argue that the monster is Mother Nature’s punishment to the cunning and untrue sex that occurs in the movie. Hugh deceives Jay the they have sex and is only interested in passing down the curse. When recalling the story from which he received the curse, Hugh mentions that he didn’t even know her name. So in both these examples we have a series of dishonest and deceitful sexual encounters that set the monster in motion.
In general, Mother Nature is the ultimate mother that is all nurturing and life giving. So when sex becomes a conduit for evil and selfishness, Mother Nature, as any mother would be, becomes enraged and unleashes the deadly specter. Even when Jay sleeps with Greg to test her hypotheses, the monster (poetically disguised as his mother) kills Greg for having indiscriminate sex.
The closing scenes of It Follows shows Jay and Paul having sex and walking ominously down the street. It is left up to interpretation if they are still being followed but I say they only slowed the curse. Since Paul truly cared for Jay he was safe from the murderous being, but I can’t say the say for Jay. Since she does not feel the same towards Paul she herself was still being closely watched by Mother Nature.
At a young age many of us couldn’t wait to finally grow up and gain all the perks associated with being older. We relished in the idea of eating sweets for breakfast and staying up until the break of day. But at that age we are mostly protected from the ugly responsibilities of an adulthood. At a young age we don’t realize that sex and other “adult” activities have dire consequences. Jay and her friends were at a tender age where they began to realize these consequences. It is true adulthood allows for greater freedom, but those freedoms are not without a conscious and deliberate responsibility.