Saturday, October 31, 2015

"It Follows" (2015)

One of the most talked about and acclaimed horror films of the year is indeed a creative and novel concept. “It Follows” is the story of a curse. The idea is that once a person is cursed, they will be pursued by an entity that only they can see, that takes on various guises, and relentlessly comes after them at a casual, walking pace. The curse is transmitted through sex, and once a cursed person has sex it is passed on to the new person. However, once that person is caught and killed, “it” will come after the first person once again.

It is an interesting conceit. For those who have always considered Pepe Le Pew a bit scary this film will serve as confirmation. The idea of a relentless, patient death approaching is scary because it is something we all face. If we could see it and run from it that would truly be an unpleasant existence.

But it is also interesting due to the “sexual sin” connotation. According to the filmmaker this was an afterthought. His initial desire was to simply convey the creepiness and dream-like quality of the pursuing curse. The sex idea was an addition. But that adds an element to the conversation. Sex in this story is dangerous, but in a way that initially fits into the Biblical worldview. The protagonist in this film engages in casual sex with a guy she barely knows, and it is he that infects her with the curse. In a more “traditional” sexual pattern—one where people abstain from sex until they find a life-long partner—there would be no danger at all in sex.

But, the metaphor of this film falls apart. It isn’t a morality tale at all in the end. The curse is limited to a single line of sexual partners. This is not a sex-is-sin story. Even worse, this story promotes a twisted cure where sex becomes a weapon. Much like the misguided idea in Africa where some men think Aids is cured by having sex with a virgin. That is hardly a good concept to promote, and this film isn’t really doing that either.

Perhaps the most convincing argument that this film is more about aesthetic and mood than message lies in the inconsistencies and illogical choices made only to scare. The “monster” can take on any form. That in and of itself doesn’t really make sense and it is only done for effect. So, in some cases “it” will be an innocuous person so that we barely notice. Other times it will be a gruesome vision presented to scare. The only logic here is the one where the director wants to create a reaction.

Sometimes the creature will be a naked person, once again intended to create a revulsion or discomfort in the audience. Nudity is never used to titillate. In fact, the sex scenes—which are voyeuristic and more graphic than is needed—do not ever show skin. That is reserved for the scares.

The worst offender where nonsensical imagery is used to shock is one towards the end of the film. Our protagonist sees “it” standing on the roof of a house she is fleeing, appearing as a naked old man. This makes no sense whatsoever. If the curse is always walking toward the victim there is no way whatsoever that it would end up on top of a building unless the victim tried to escape by climbing up there themselves.

So, what we have here is novelty and very skilled, beautiful cinematography, but with a story that is captive to a dream-logic and a lack of any meaning that let the viewer down.

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