Wait. Really? Horror movies are still doing the punishing-girls-for-having-sex thing? Goddammit…
Ah, but It Follows is “retro,” so that’s okay then. It’s “80s.” Except for that one cell phone in the opening scene, and the weird little e-reader in a cosmetics case. But listen to the electronica score, clearly meant to evoke John Carpenter! Check out the old gas-guzzling cars and square cathode-ray TVs and the cheesy porn mags! So 80s.
Girls weren’t allowed to have sex in the 80s, and if they did, they were sluts. If they wanted it, they deserved to die. Everyone knows this. (Some people still think it today.) So it is with Jay (Maika Monroe: The Guest*, Labor Day), who actually initiates sex with her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary). And then she discovers that she is now the target of the supernatural haunting murderous spectre that has been dogging Hugh for a while.
Now, it’s true that if there’s one single original thing about It Follows — and there’s pretty much just the one — it’s that a horror flick has never laid it out this explicitly that the yer-gonna-die! curse is sexually transmitted, is actually directly connected to the fact that you touched your naughty bits to someone else’s naughty bits like some kind of freak because, Jesus, who does that? Gross! Because that’s the way it is here. Hugh informs Jay of this after they’ve done the deed, and tells her that the only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone else and pass it on. (Hugh kindly chloroforms and ties up Jay so that she cannot run away before the spectre appears and he can explain the rules to her.) This kinda still doesn’t help, because if that person cannot avoid being killed by the It that’s Following, then the It will come back for you, and then presumably all the way back down the line. You can’t ever really relax, because you can never be sure you’ve escaped It for good. The movie is like Final Destination, in that way, so in this sense only 15 years retro instead of 30.
Anyway, if only Jay had slaked her slutty needs with her friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist: It’s Kind of a Funny Story), who is constantly hanging around and is a Nice Guy who is always there for her! He doesn’t have any supernatural haunting murderous spectres hanging around his cock. Maybe Jay will learn her lesson… if she survives, that is.
Sure, there is lots of elegant style and tension in writer-director David Robert Mitchell second feature, but that’s about all there is. Maybe that’s enough for some horror fans. Me, I’d like to see something new to be terrified about (now that sex has stopped being scary to me). Gosh, might there be a few things around today, in the 2010s, that inspire dread?
*‘The Guest’ is another retro 80s throwback. What the hell, young filmmakers? Do you have any original ideas to share with us, or are you all just going to chase your fanboy tails down rabbit holes of retro meta?