Updated: May 30, 2018
Streaming on Netflix
Metadata: 2014 | R | 1h 40m
Genre: Horror, Supernatural Thriller
Why I watched it: Enough trustworthy people told me to watch this movie that I eventually had to believe them. I pitched it to my sister, a horror fan, as being a campy teen slasher. This movie was sooooo not what I expected and the surprise definitely contributed to the pleasure of being equal parts intrigued and terrified. If you want a similar experience, stop reading now, go watch the movie, then come back for this newsletter!
You might also like: We may or may not be living in the golden age of indie horror. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) is another stone in this crown. It's streaming on Netflix.
I feel like I was one of the last to know about It Follows, which I've now watched three times in one month, three years after it hit theaters. The low-budget horror movie from director David Robert Mitchell was a surprising hit at the box office, grossing more than $14 million from March through June 2015, earning about 14 times what it took Mitchell to make it. If you've already seen the movie, you know that it's about a creepy supernatural "It" that will, well, follow you. (The tagline for the movie was, "It doesn't think. It doesn't feel. It doesn't give up.") Or rather, It will follow you unless you have sex with someone else, passing along a sexually transmitted death curse.
The sexual politics of the movie are what garnered it a lot of the press attention. The notion that the main character must have sex so that she doesn't die is basically the opposite of every 1980s slasher film. There's more going on, though, than simply: Final Girls Can Be Sexually Active. (Carol Clover termed the phrase "Final Girl," the girl left alive at the end so that someone can tell the story. In the 1980s, she was exclusively virginal.) At the beginning of the film, Hugh explains the curse to Jay—he describes how he got it, why he gave it to her, and how she can survive it. Some have pitched that It Follows pitches is a message of shared responsibility when it comes to protection, to surviving the fatal disease—an analogy for the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
IMHO, the movie is too layered for there to be one, all-encompassing explanation for what the heck is going on. One of the creepiest parts of the film is that it has no discernible time period. Synth music contributes to a vintage vibe throughout, reminding me of the score for the 1970s-set The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999). Dated technology, clothing, cars, and houses further the nostalgic ambience, but a contemporary-ish Detroit provides the film's backdrop. (More on that here.) No one seems to have a cell phone, but Jay's friend Yara has an e-reader that allows her to spout Dostoyevsky at will. . . . I don't feel like I'm explaining this well, but just take my word for it: The time-period-less-ness is a nightmarish mind bender. (Also, there's something going on with water in the movie. Pools, lakes, etc. all seem to be weirdly important. At me if you have a theory.)
AND OMG THAT FINAL SCENE.
It Follows is thrilling and unexpected and intricate, and you have to watch it and then watch it again. I'm getting jumpy all over again writing about it. Seriously. My dog just walked into the room and I screamed a little.
Happy streaming screaming! Liz