After carefree teenager Jay sleeps with her new boyfriend, Hugh, for the first time, she learns that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Death, Jay learns, will creep inexorably toward her as either a friend or a stranger. Jay’s friends don’t believe her seemingly paranoid ravings, until they too begin to see the phantom assassin and band together to help her flee or defend herself.
Amelia: We ended up cutting Pet Sematary out of our 31 Spooky Nights playlist because, while trying to prepare Billy to watch a movie where a house cat dying is a major plot point, I ended up thinking about it too much and didn’t want to watch that myself. So we moved onto It Follows which is centred around sex and, guess what? I dislike horror that intertwines sex into the scary narrative, but next to a cat dying, it’s the lesser of two evils in our minds!
Billy: I’m so glad we made a last minute switch to It Follows because this film is absolutely brilliant. The monster in It Follows is also one of the cleverest concepts I’ve seen in modern film. It slowly walks towards you in any form it chooses, invisible to everyone but you. How has this never been done before? It requires so little.
The scene in which that monster is introduced is definitely my favourite scene in this whole film. Deliberately, it’s from the perspective of a victim, removing any real point of authority to describe the monster and leaving you with the implication that no one will believe you if you try. It remains unexplained from any real point of authority. No wise or benevolent figure, just a victim frantically trying to explain the best way he knows how. Having it appear at first as a naked woman was a great way to make it seem alien and other, setting you up to fear the more ‘normal’ incarnations that appear later.
Amelia: I wasn’t a fan of the music in It Follows. Well, I suppose I liked it outside of the context of the movie. I just don’t think it fit in any way with the pictures on the screen. Billy said it was part of the tone and then seemed very smug but I’m not buying it. As soon as the music started I was taken out of what I was watching. That doesn’t create tone! That creates smug film studies graduates!
Billy: At times, It Follows is stunningly gorgeous. If you’ve ever seen films like The Guest, Drive, or Cold in July, you understand the new-retro vibe this film gives off. There’s a beautiful sense of style to it, making this film feel at times familiar yet extremely fresh and modern, and best of all it’s all in service of making It Follows set the right tone to achieve its goals of unsettling its audience. The wide angle lenses and far away shots give the film the vibe that our characters are always being watched and pursued at a distance, and encourages your eye to scan the background for something lurking in the shadows. For a horror movie, there’s also a surprising amount of action in this film that takes place during the day. It’s cinematography that openly evokes Halloween and does so much to create a sense of dread and fear in an otherwise colourful film.
The music is a huge part of that, evoking John Carpenter scores as well as echoing the plight of characters within the film. The beat represents the slow, steady approach of the monster alongside the panicked rhythm of Jay’s flight. But there’s so much to talk about. The multiple incarnations adds so much variety to what can be done here. The tall man is likely the most unsettling incarnation, the old woman is perhaps my favourite. There’s nothing scary about her, and yet she’s terrifying because of everything we’ve been shown and told previously. Because it is such a normal thing to see, this movie actually makes you appreciate the endless possibility of this monster early on. You either won’t notice It, or you’ll really notice It as it sneaks up behind you.
Amelia: This movie’s whole premise is so clever. So clever that from its cleverness comes something really grisly and disturbing. Whether this supernatural entity symbolizes HIV/AIDS/STIs, sexual anxiety, the power of sex both negative and positive, or whatever else, it was really unsettling. That’s pretty damn impressive for indie horror.
Billy: There is a very real disturbing quality to the sexual themes that define It Follows. It’s not disturbing in the physical way of a David Cronenberg film, but the way it constantly reinforces repercussions of the sexual act. It really grounds it in a truer sense of reality. After losing her virginity, Jay discovers she’s been lied to and betrayed by her lover, literally dumped on the side of the road and cursed with something she can never truly be rid of as a constant reminder of that night. Like Amelia said, there’s a metaphor here about HIV that you can’t shake, but I think there are shades of rape survival and trauma here as well. You can’t get rid of it. Even if you think it’s over, there’s a chance it might come back.
Because of this focus on repercussions, It Follows manages to make a film with multiple teen sex scenes into something where sex is a meaningful, plot-driven character choice. It’s important because of the potential weight that hangs over the act, and we’re given a repercussion that we can make sense of in immediate, external, film-friendly terms. It emphasizes the importance of that choice, especially during teen years, in who you choose to sleep with. Jay’s friends treat her differently after sex, a change with as much to do with her being stalked by an invisible monster as it does with her loss of virginity. Paul now looks at her differently, as a potential sexual partner rather than just a friend.
Jay also notices changes in herself. For better or for worse, she uses Greg (who is arguably also using Jay to get what he wants) to rid herself of It. Though that goal ultimately doesn’t work, it’s a scene that shapes our view of who she is as a person for attempting it. Whether or not you believe she actually slept with the men on the boat at the end of the film is up to how you’ve viewed her to that point, but her sex scene with Paul seems fundamentally different than the other (infectious) sex scenes we saw earlier.
Amelia: Five condoms to prevent the spread of ghostly STIs out of ten
Despite my generally impressed attitude towards It Follows, I can’t bring myself to go higher than a five. If I were looking at frights alone, I’d probably go up to a seven for the silent, ever stalking creature, but as a whole movie, it’s a middle ground thing for me. I’m not a huge fan of movies that tie sex and sexuality to horror and if I’d been watching this on my own, I probably would have given up hope at the point where it’s implied that Jay ends up so desperate to get rid of the thing that she gangbangs three random guys. That’s a sort of bleakness even I try to avoid.
Billy: Nine condoms to prevent the spread of ghostly STIs out of ten
There’s very little I love more than an independent, low budget film that blows A-level competitors out of the water. There is one very effects-driven scene that I would have cut entirely to save the tension for the end. I kind of glanced over how beautifully this film is shot earlier, but its choice of angles and lighting are crucial to its aesthetic. There’s something about it I really adore. I loved the ending. The sight of a woman walking behind them chills you when it really shouldn’t.