By Jonathan Wojcik
ENTRY 18: IT FOLLOWS
2015's It Follows by David Robert Mitchell begins with a teenage girl running and screaming from something we can't see at all, until she gets to a car and drives off. She then phones her father that she loves him, and we cut immediately to her broken and mangled corpse lying on a beach.
The real story then begins when Jaime Height or "Jay" (Maika Monroe) goes out to the movies with her new boyfriend "Hugh" (Jake Weary), but he makes them leave early when he discovers he can see a girl in the same theater that Jaime cannot. On a subsequent date, the two end up having sex only for Hugh to chloroform Jaime immediately afterwards.
She wakes up tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned parking garage, where "Hugh" is searching around with a flashlight. He tells her that something is now going to be following her, that it can look like anyone at all, and that he believes he has now passed it onto her. When he says can see it, he wheels Jay around to watch as a mysterious, nude woman approaches the parking garage.
Most viewers will notice that the woman walks in a subtly stuttering way, likely by skipping every other frame of footage. Tne detail I'd like to point out however is that it makes a "clank" when she steps barefoot on a metal train track.
Hugh tells Jaime that the thing is slow, but never stops coming and that she can pass it on to another person if she sleeps with them but that it will kill her if it ever reaches her, then come for him again. As the woman comes closer and closer, both of them able to see her, he wheels Jaime away and later dumps her out in front of her own home, reminding her to remember everything he's said.
The police aren't certain what to do, exactly. "Hugh" was only an alias, and his home was a temporary rental. Jay hopes everything she witnessed was some kind of delusion or a prank, but it doesn't follow the logic of either.
At school the next day, Jay spots an old woman out the window, walking barefoot in a straight line directly towards her. No one else outside even glances at this woman, and when Jay nervously rushes out of class, she finds the same woman in the hallway. When she tries to speak to her, other students give her bizarre looks and respond as if they can't see the stranger directly in front of Jaime.
Jaime confides in her friends about everything, who give her the benefit of the doubt and agree to watch over her.
Jaime's childhood friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist) stays the night with her, and all seems normal until they hear a window shatter. Paul doesn't see anything, but when he leaves to get Jaime's sister Kelly (Lili Sepe), Jaime can hear a soft shuffling sound from another room, and investigates to find a drunken-looking, half-dressed woman slowly walking towards her. The woman's teeth appear knocked out, and she continuously urinates as she plods forward like a zombie.
Jaime flees to her bedroom and locks the door, as a confused Paul and Lili assure her there's nobody there. She finally lets them in, and Kelly's friend Yara (Olivia Luccardi) is close behind asking about all the commotion.
...And right behind Yara, an incredibly tall man looms from the shadows. An incredibly tall man with deeply sunken eyes. Screaming in terror, Jay climbs out her own window, scrambles down to the lawn and takes a bicycle to the nearest park as her neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto) watches. Greg joins her friends in following her to a park, and being the only one among them with a car, he offers to help however he can as Jaime decides she needs to track down Hugh for answers.
The house where Hugh had been staying is a wreck inside, littered with pornography, garbage and makeshift alarm systems, while the windows are covered over in comic pages. They do find some evidence of his possible identity however, and continuing their investigations, they finally discover that his real name was Jeff Redmond. When they figure out his real address, they are greeted at the door by Jeff's mother - the very person the entity had been imitating at the parking garage.
Jeff is willing to talk with everyone, apologizing that he didn't want to harm Jaime but didn't know how else to protect himself, having in turn "caught" the entity from a one night stand at a bar. He reiterates to Jaime that she simply needs to pass it on to someone else, but she finds the idea too uncomfortable.
Greg drives everyone to his family's old beach house, where he retrieves a gun and teaches Jaime how to shoot, hoping that the thing might be mortal. Later, at the beach, we can see Yara approaching the group...and Yara also swimming in the river. This time, everyone is watching when an invisible force grabs Jaime by the hair. Paul swings a chair into the empty space, clearly colliding with something, and is suddenly thrown back several feet. As Jaime squirms free, the group retreats to a wooden shack and Jaime gets out her new handgun. She gets a bloody headshot in and the fake Yara topples...but gets back up with ease.
They shut and lock the door, and we get a quick glimpse of that tall man from early as he passes by a gap in the wood, then kicks open a hole in the door.
...But the form that comes in through that hole is a skinny, grimy little boy, baring his teeth and screeching. Jaime escapes through another opening and takes Greg's car in a panic, only to crash and awaken in a hospital.
...A hospital in which Greg, only now convinced that the entity may be real, discreetly Does the Deed with Jaime in her examination room. Jaime knows that Greg is still skeptical, and she knows what's going to happen to him next, but she allows him to take on the curse.
Days later, Greg still hasn't seen anything out of the ordinary, and has returned to doubting the existence of the being at all.
...But Jaime, watching Greg's house through her window, eventually spies an unknown figure breaking in through his window. She rushes outside, across the street and through the same window, finding what appears to be Greg's mother knocking on his bedroom door.
She screams for him not to open it, but it sounds like he's listening to music, and can hear nothing but the knocking. He opens his door, finding his own mother in front of him, wearing nothing but an open bathrobe. A "what the fuck, mom?!" is all he gets out as the thing lunges for him, and he seems to be killed instantly by unknown means. What the creature does next, in his own mother's form, is too explicit to get into and the most disturbing scene in the film.
Knowing the thing will now be after her again, Jaime does something dark...maybe. She finds two men swimming at the beach, strips off most of her clothes and begins swimming out to them. We next see her driving home, and we don't know whether the haunted look on her face is with the guilt that she condemned two strangers or the guilt that she was considering it. Subsequent dialog implies that she didn't go through with it, but we're never entirely sure. If she did, then the next target didn't last long at all, since it's only a day later that she sees the form of a nearly naked man standing inexplicably on the roof of her own house.
The group are absolutely determined to see if the being is killable, and head for an abandoned indoor swimming pool to stage an elaborate ambush; Jaime swims out to the center of the water, and the others plug electrical devices into the surrounding outlets. Their hope is that the entity will have to swim its way to Jaime, giving her time to exit the pool before they all toss the appliances into the water and electrocute the thing.
...It is, unfortunately, smarter than they expected. When it finally arrives, sadistically taking the form of Jaime and Kelly's deceased father, it only circles the pool and throws the appliances directly at Jaime with extreme force.
My personal favorite moment in the movie comes when Kelly figures out where the entity is standing and throws a cloth over it; by far the most intense Sheet Ghost scene in my recollection.
Paul shoots the figure through the head, and it finally dives into the pool. It yanks Jaime under, but Paul manages to get another bullet into it as she shoots the space where it would logically be, and as she climbs out of the pool, Jaime sees an inhumanly massive cloud of blood fill the water.
...Is it dead? Really dead? Dead-dead? It certainly doesn't come back out. That's certainly a lot more blood than she's ever seen come out of it. That night, whether in spite or because of this uncertainty, Jaime sleeps with Paul, who has been attracted to her since they were childhood friends.
And in the film's truly grim conclusion, Jaime stays home while Paul drives into the city and is evidently seeking out a prostitute. Later, in our final shot, Paul and Jaime are holding hands as they walk down the street, a figure far behind them in the distance. Maybe, just maybe, an ordinary person out for an ordinary stroll.
MONSTER ANALYSIS: THE ENTITY
I planned to include this one from the start, but looking back, it's remarkable how "typical" this film has suddenly become; it debuted at Cannes the same year that the Babadook released, and it really feels like the two of them changed the way horror films have been directed in the few years since. The critical success of both movies, and their respective monsters, seem to have inspired a surge of these ambiguous, unstoppable entities that can come for their victims anywhere, at any time, as we also saw in the more recent Smile.
The "entity" in It Follows obviously works as a euphemism for sexually transmitted diseases, except of course for the fact that you "lose" it when you pass it down, only in danger again when it slaughters its way back through the queue. Others have read into the film as a metaphor for the negative repercussions of an early sex life itself; that the entity can be taken as allegory for the emotional baggage and regret young adults may be left with when they are driven by societal pressure to seek out sexual experiences all too soon.
And it certainly works on those levels, but the director has stated that this is primarily not a movie critical of sexuality of any kind. Other reviewers have noted that a lot of horror villains notoriously kill people after they've had sex, to the point of becoming a parody cliche, and that this pattern is utilized in It Follows as the backdrop to a rarer and more surprising theme in the horror genre: the power of support. It remains almost a given in most horror stories that any character experiencing the paranormal will be met with skepticism, condescension or even cruelty by those who have not or cannot see what they do. It's something so routine that it becomes easier to overlook it, to just accept without question that this is how such a scenario will always naturally play out.
Instead, Jaime's friends care about her enough to never argue with her or diminish her feelings, let alone ridicule or abandon her like an uncountable number of side characters in an uncountable number of other spooky tales. Though they eventually see the unexplainable with their own eyes, they are willing to be there for their friend the moment she needs them, they trust her that her fear comes from a real place and they do everything they possibly can to protect and comfort her. This is the only reason she survives as long as she does, the only reason anyone comes close to potentially killing the entity and the only reason most of them survive to the end credits.
It's interesting that the entity even can be fought by others, too; that it isn't some ethereal specter like we're used to by now. It's invisible to anyone not on its hit list, but it's otherwise fully corporeal, and it exhibits no other "powers" besides changing its form - exclusively when it is out of sight - and a limited capacity for faster travel, which is especially strange. It seems capable of manifesting anywhere, instantaneously, but this also seems to be at some minimum distance from its target, and then it can approach only at walking speed. What exactly are the rules it abides by, or does it for some reason choose to operate this way? Is this all some sort of game to the being? Is it nourished in part by the anxiety and paranoia cultivated by its activity pattern? Why does it choose the particular forms that we see, which aren't always personally familiar to the victim? Why do they range from inoccuous disguises to mutilated figures or the lady peeing all over the damn floor? Is it just basically a shithead?
As with Smile, which obviously took a bit of inspiration from this one, I most respect that this being is never referred to as a spirit, ghost or demon, outside some unofficial synopses calling it a sort of "demonic force" just so the reader can even get a ballpark idea of what they're in for.
Jaime and Paul's final act is a morally disturbing one, when they apparently decide Paul should pass the entity on to an unsuspecting sex worker, and at the very least that's not someone who needs any more on their plate. On the other hand, assuming Paul won't be the only client that night, odds are high the entity will never come back to the original prostitute at all; even if she passes it to someone who dies, for instance, she may pass it to another before she ever encounters it, and if any of those happen to be people who regularly pay for sex, or go clubbing to trawl for "one night stands" as Jeff did, or otherwise engage in any local "scene" where sex is involved...there's a chance the thing will be passed around the city and far beyond. A chance that the thing is going to jump from community to community over the course of just a few weeks and rack up a "to-do" list so thick, there's also the chance that no one in Jaime's life will ever hear from it again.
Putting an unknown number of people on that list to begin with, all just to create a personal "safety buffer," still feels like a reprehensible act...but then we also have to consider that if Jaime resigned herself to death, the entity would come for Jeff again, and then Jeff - who already knows how the being functions - would try to pass it to someone else, and so on, and so on, meaning that any choice Jaime made, and any outcome of that choice, condemns other people to death no matter what. This really is a uniquely unsettling setup for a monster; one that not only leaves no guaranteed escape route, but no selfless avenue. I can't think of any other monster that will go on to kill other people whether you protect yourself from it, allow it to kill you, or were to even kill yourself first, a monster that actually forces you to gamble on other people's lives even if you sit back and do absolutely nothing.
We don't know if the entity has a true form, but you can't fool me, you bastard TROLLEY.