Looking Back at 2010s Films: It Follows (2015)

6 Oct

it-follows

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, IT FOLLOWS!

You know how many bad supernatural-teen-thrillers there are? Films with malevolent supernatural presences that seem to target an annoying group of bland teenagers? Sometimes, you come across a good one, but for the most part, they’re pretty disposable. And then, you get It Follows…

Remember when Paul Thomas Anderson made “Punch-Drunk Love,” giving an otherwise-typical Adam Sandler comedy the arthouse treatment and gave it more depth than we didn’t think could be found? Well, filmmaker David Robert Mitchell gave the same treatment to an otherwise-typical supernatural-teen-thriller, with “It Follows.” Think about it–we have teens being stalked by an invisible presence that wants nothing more than to kill them. It’d be so easy (scratch that–TOO easy) to screw this up. But instead, Mitchell left room open for analysis by keeping enough questions unanswered, providing plenty of atmosphere to add to the terror we’re facing by using striking cinematography, and even setting it in a time that’s hardly defined, with old-timey cars & TV sets, a few modern-day devices, and even a futuristic compact Kindle…or whatever that thing was.

The characters are still the same as you would see in most other supernatural-teen-thrillers–there’s hardly anything special about them. But…eh. They’re real enough; I’ll accept them, mostly because they’re set in this movie’s world and that makes me realize this is a neat alternative to most supernatural-teen-thrillers that have only the slightest amount of creativity and not the slightest bit of atmosphere.

The late, great French director Jean-Luc Godard once said the best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie. That about sums it up here.

Anyway, what does “It” represent in “It Follows?” It can be transferred through sex, which makes it easy to label “It” as a metaphor for an STD and a cautionary warning for safe-sex. When I first saw the film, I thought it was that simple. But now, I realize it may be something deeper than I thought. Our main character, Jay, wants to explore the world of adulthood, thinking of it as freedom. And you know how a lot of teens think when it comes to the subject of sex–for example, in their world, sex makes boys into “men.” But with adulthood comes responsibility & consequence, and THAT could be what “It” represents–Jay has sex with this guy she likes, then feels like she’s walking on air while she’s talking about what she used to imagine when she was old enough to date…and then the guy holds her captive for a little while and warns her that this “thing” will follow her just as it followed him, and if it catches her, she’ll die. The only way to get rid of it to pass it along and make it someone else’s problem. It may slowly walk towards her, but it won’t stop. And it’ll look like someone she knows or just another face in the crowd…

(Though, it’s easy to point it out–just look for the person who’s either naked or wearing white clothing…and walking slowly with blank facial expressions.)

“It” could mean anything here–death, consequence, guilt, inner demons becoming outer demons, etc. Whatever it is, it’s out there and the characters who are targeted by it can either live with it and/or do something about it or just let it take them. If they ignore it, they’ll surely suffer for it. I like that it’s left open to analyze, and it can be analyzed in many different ways, so there’s hardly any wrong answers.

It’s also interesting to think about–CAN you escape it, like take a plane to leave the country or something? Or will it board the plane with you? Or will it keep walking to where you’re going? Can it swim across the ocean?

I like the way “It Follows” ends. Actually, it doesn’t end–it stops. We don’t know if the characters have ultimately escaped “It” or not; we just know they’re stuck with the knowledge that it could still be out there, waiting for them and/or coming for them. They’re adults now, and they have to live with adult responsibilities & consequences for their actions. Whether they like it or not, they’re stuck with it.

And it won’t stop.

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