For the past several years (in fact, since 2012, with a break only in 2013) Kevin has been bringing us at least one Halloween-themed film (horror or similar) every year in late October or early November. This year is no exception, though with Phong committed to come for a 10th Anniversary showing, we decided to make the whole thing a double feature. Kevin’s choice this year was the 2014 horror flick It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell. I’ll have plenty to say about the film at the end, I figure, but for now let’s just get into it.
The film opens with a frightened teenage girl running from an apparently invisible assailant. She drives to a beach (presumably Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair, as it’s set in Detroit) where she calls her parents to tell them she loves them, and awaits her fate there. As you can see, she gets kinda messed up. This opening piece is just an introduction to our monster, however, as we never learn who she actually is.
We now jump to the meat of the story. Our heroine Jay, after a wee bit of exposition, makes the horror film mistake of some backseat sex with her new boyfriend Hugh. Hugh (technically, it’s a false identity) then chloroforms her and ties her to a wheelchair. As if that’s not bad enough, he starts telling her a story that he has given her a sexually-transmitted monster, a relentless apparition that can only be seen by its victims – though it appears in whatever guise it likes – and which will come after her until either it kills her (at which point it will revert down the line and start coming for him again) or until she passes the gift that keeps on giving on to somebody else. He tells her never to go anywhere with only one exit, because while it’s slow (it walks at a leisurely and deliberate pace) it’s not stupid. And while it was pretty lousy of him to infect her, it was at least nice of him to establish the rules for her. And, presumably, smart – because the longer she outwits the monster, the more time he has before it has him back in its sights.
Obviously Jay has some misgivings about the truth of this story, but after being pursued through her school by a creepy hospital gown grandma invisible to others, she and a group of her close friends begin to come to grips with this idea.
They head out to a lake cabin, where Jay learns to shoot a gun and eventually the monster catches up, where it very nearly mauls Jay and her friends are able to see the physical effects of the monster if not the monster itself. The gun, of course, doesn’t stop it for long, and Jay ends up crashing her car in a panicked attempt to escape.
Somehow the monster doesn’t catch up to her at the scene of the wreck, and Jay ends up in the hospital with a broken arm. At this point, her friend Greg agrees to sleep with her to draw off the monster and pass it to somebody else (though another friend, Paul, is clearly a bit jealous about not getting the call for this). It is implied that Greg does pass it on (possibly to the girl in the opener?) but the next victim doesn’t seem to last very long, and Greg is killed by the monster in the form of his mother.
After another short-lived attempt by Jay to pass the thing on to a stranger, she and her friends decide to develop a plan to try to kill the monster outright – by luring it into the local pool and throwing in a bunch of plugged-in appliances to electrocute it. This is basically the climax scene of the film, and long story short, thought the monster is shot and fills the pool with blood…it probably doesn’t work.
Jay then passes the monster on to Paul, and the closing scene of the film shows them walking off resignedly into the sunset together with someone walking behind them. Is it the monster? Is it? The end.
It Follows has sort of a strange mixture of adhering to classic horror movie tropes (if you have sex, you die) and breaking them completely (the origin and point of the monster is never explained at all).
The movie does a pretty good job of creating some tension, but at least for me the tension was never quite able to overpower the relentless machinations of my own mind trying to figure out how to beat this monster given the small set of rules that we know. But we don’t know much. We know that the monster is passed from A to B to C to D, and if the monster kills D then it begins working back down the chain to C. At the same time, once you are in the chain, you can now see the monster even if you are no longer the primary target. It just won’t come after you. So…can you pass it on if you’re in the chain but not the primary? Is there any sort of branching that goes on here? Does succession work in a complicated fashion like the heirs to the throne of England, or is it more like a single chain? What if you close the loop? If D passes to E passes to F passes to G, and then G has sex with B…is B now the primary? Or is B immune because of being in the chain? Furthermore, if B is now the primary, and the monster kills B, does it next set its sights on G, or might it get fooled and go straight to A, leaving C-G off the hook? What if, while the monster is pursuing G, F dies of causes unrelated to the monster. When the monster succeeds on killing G, does it simply move on to E? And most of all, what happens when the monster gets all the way down the chain, killing either Patient Zero (there MUST be a Patient Zero), or the last surviving member of the chain? Does it just die? Is it released from its curse or something? We just don’t know!
Furthermore, given that the monster walks very slowly (say two miles per hour) and does not appear to have the ability to, say, hop a plane, it seems that the more distance you can put between yourself and the monster, the more time you have to relax before you have to deal with it. What if you go to Hawaii? Can the monster even cross the ocean? It doesn’t appear to be able to walk on water. But even without Hawaii – why not infect a partner in crime and go to California. 2000 miles? You’ve got a thousand hours or so (say 50 days) to relax. Find a nice place where you can keep a constant look out and when the time for the monster to show up comes, sleep in shifts, bail out when it shows up and fly to Massachusetts. Lather, rinse, repeat. It might be a bit of an expensive scheme, but it would work. And if you managed to get very good at timing the monster’s arrival, you might be able to simply leave just before it arrives and be able to live a fairly normal life – albeit in no location for more than say two months at a time. I guess it would be hard to hold down a job, but there are always service jobs, or if you get lucky, telecommuting. Sure, it would be a relatively expensive and yet quite vagabond lifestyle, but it beats just giving in to the stress, laying back and dying.