BY JOHN CARTER JR
While often being referred to as the STD horror movie, 2014’s It Follows directed by David Robert Mitchell cannot just be summed up as a simple cautionary tale in support of safe sex practice. While it can certainly be argued the titular “It” is an allegory for sexually transmitted infections, the film also delves into themes of getting older, coping with rapidly evolving lives, and the inevitable confrontation with death. There have been analyses concerning this film and its themes of STDs, aging, and death and one theme that rings consistently throughout each of these discussions is acceptance. Let’s examine the aforementioned themes to extrapolate the film’s ultimate answer.
The film centers around Jaime Height, a young college student who after a brief and traumatizing one-night stand with her new boyfriend Hugh, is being targeted by a monstrous creature taking on the form of various people. The entity follows its most recent target until it can kill them. To make matters more interesting, the target is determined by the last person to have sex with a target of the creature.
For many viewers, this is where the analysis of Jaimie Height’s journey throughout the film ends, and thus summing this film up as the STD horror movie can sound like a good fit. However, it seems to be less about the transmission of a sex demon and more of a representation of potential traumas one might endure as a young adult. With the common idea of young people being confronted with the “harsh truths” or having what some parents might call a “rude awakening” through instances of major life change by some tragedy, trauma, or simply a tough situation.
An STD is just one of the things sexually active young people can be confronted with, but many other major life events may also act as these kinds of confrontations for young people’s worldview. Pregnancy, death in the family, moving away, sexual assault, going to college, getting older, and changes in our bodies are just some of these things. We recognize some of these moments with Jaimie. She not only receives this STD-like curse but has also been sexually manipulated which affected her ability to consent.
At the beginning of the film, Jaimie examines her physical appearance, indicating her concern with how she presents to Hugh and based on the entity’s form at the end of the film, as well as other hints throughout the film, she may have potentially have lost her father. The STD analysis of the film is one important facet of the film’s overall narrative in that it represents the child becoming an adult just starting to begin recognizing the certainty of their own death, but also the absolute nature of time.
Paralleling the process of growing up, Jaimie begins to learn how to manage her life with the monster following her, using her experience from each traumatic event she has endured to make her subsequent decisions. She confronts her assaulter, tells her close circle of friends what is happening to her, she tries to get far away from the monster who has to walk to get to its next victim. After more trials, she and her friends become more resilient and more willing to confront the creature.
The topics of aging and the fear of getting old are something discussed surrounding this film. This clear human event response loop represents this idea. When we are young, we fear dying. It feels like the biggest possible trauma being thrown at you at once. The prospect of not existing anymore is deeply disturbing to many people; however, as we age throughout our trials, successes, and mistakes, we become more comfortable with the idea that there is an unavoidable end to all of this.
For many knowing that there is an end makes life more meaningful. With age comes the wisdom of acceptance and determination. The determination to get everything done that you want to or can in the time you are given and how to optimize that time.
It Follows is about the recognition of our inevitable end, the acceptance of that death, and the determination to live as long as you can in spite of it. It is about the humans’ will to survive and thrive even when death is literally at your doorstep and halting the waste of time by youthful attempts to turn back the clock that only ever ends in vain and facing your remaining life head-on.
The film is about the acquisition of wisdom through the trials and tribulations of our lives. The end of the film more than indicates this, showing that not only were the characters not able to kill the monster, but it is still following Jaimie. But instead of running in fear, she walks calmly with her presumed partner and friend Paul. Jaimie has been through horrible circumstances, but she has learned from them and she is ready to take on her life even knowing death is always behind her. Because she knows that for however long she has left, life is always ahead.
I give It follows 9/10 futuristic-looking shell phone/e readers for its horrific confrontation with mortality, its wonderful hometown vibes, and its themes and ideas about acceptance.