The Rules of the Game
It Follows (2014) is a psychological thriller directed by David Robert Mitchell and staring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, and Olivia Luccardi. Our main character, Jay (Maika Monroe), has a decently normal sexual encounter that turns very not normal very quickly. Jay’s most recent sexual partner, Hugh (Jake Weary), explains to her that he had sex with her in order to pass on a curse. If that doesn’t seem horrifying enough, Hugh chloroforms Jay and ties her to a wheelchair in order to deliver the good news. Hugh explains that, now that Jay is the carrier of this curse, she will begin to see an entity that can take on the appearance and form of any person, but that only Jay will be able to see the entity until she passes on the curse to someone else. I will refer to this entity as IT. IT will follow Jay at only a walking pace, and will continue to do so until IT kills Jay or Jay passes the curse on to another person via sexual intercourse. If IT successfully kills the person with the curse, it will then follow the person that had the curse prior to the person IT killed.
Now that we have the rules of the game/a brief summary discussed, I think this movie is extremely undervalued and misunderstood. The fact that Mitchell was able to make the background of the film more scary than the anticipation of a jump scare is truly a remarkable talent that many others have compared to John Carpenter. Additionally, the cinematography suggests that the characters are playing a game that is much more complicated than that of simple survival.
I have read that people feel indifferent about this film for many reasons, but mostly because of the concept. Some say that there are too many plot holes. Others say that the lack of explanation of the entity and the forms that it takes on makes the film more confusing to watch. I would suggest to those that have criticisms on the subject matter and the entity itself to take a deeper look into the film. I think that the film was unrealistic on purpose. The concept is already not realistic, so it doesn’t matter that the girl in the beginning of the film is wearing heels to run around outside or that the entity does not ever seem to embody someone that belongs in the surrounding area (ex. the naked woman that Hugh and Jay see when Jay is tied to the wheelchair).
What Does It All Mean?
I think the most basic interpretations of this film are that when you have sex, you also have sex with everyone that the other person has also had sex with. That stays with you forever, just like the curse. The other interpretation that seems too simple to be true is that, in all horror films, you have sex and then you die (kinda like taxes). It is a fairly easy and familiar concept, but I think it would be insulting to the director to claim that this film is so simple.
My immediate interpretation of IT was that the entity takes on the form of all of the previous victims of the curse. When I rewatched the film (embarrassingly, I have seen this film 4x), I discovered that Greg (Daniel Zovatto) is ultimately killed by IT in the form of his own mother after Jay passes the curse on to him. This, of course, is after Jay sees IT in the form of Greg breaking in to Greg’s house. Then, I realized that I had been so naive because IT takes on the form of people that are familiar to the carrier of the curse and not random people that were killed by IT.
This makes sense, as Jay sees IT take the forms of her father, her best friend, Yara, Greg, and a neighborhood boy that used to watch her. These people obviously scare Jay, which is why IT takes on those forms. Jay also sees other forms of IT, but it is not possible to determine from the film all of the forms that are familiar to her. The elderly woman in the hospital gown and knee pads, for example, that Jay sees walking in a courtyard outside of her college classroom is one of the few that I think simply represent pure fear.
Grotesque Ground’s blog (link in sources below) seems to share a similar interpretation to mine, but takes it a little further to say that the entity sometimes takes on the forms of those that the carrier of the curse has in their sexual desires or experienced sexual trauma with (imagined or real).
This film is a work of art if you give it the time and attention it needs to give you that impression. With my analysis in mind and the work of Grotesque Ground, please give this film another watch. If your opinion changes, be sure to let me know!
Grotesque Ground’s Analysis: https://grotesqueground.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/it-follows-2014-the-hidden-meaning-of-it/.