It Follows and The Power of Sex
Sex is not a stranger to the horror genre. In fact, most horror flicks contain at least one sexual encounter that ultimately leads to the lovers’ demise. It Follows takes this concept to the next level, using sex as a law in which a curse must abide by.
Jay Height (Maika Monroe), a 19-year-old girl, begins dating a charming fellow named Hugh (Jake Weary). After a few dates, the two decide to really get to know one another in the backseat of Hugh’s car. The night takes an unexpected turn when Jay awakens to find herself strapped down in a wheelchair. Through their recent copulation, Jay has inherited something worse than an STD: a sexually transmitted haunting in which an unknown entity follows it’s victim with the intent of murder. Not only does this creature chase it’s mark at an incredibly slow pace (comparable to that of a child consuming undesirable vegetables), but it also has the ability to change it’s appearance to “whatever helps it get close to you.” It will tail Jay until it kills her, or she can transfer the curse onto someone else. The creature will make it’s way down the line of carriers, killing them one by one.
It Follows does not condone nor condemn sex as other horror films do. Take Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th for example: in the very first scene two camp counselors escape to the barn for some late night loving, only to be stabbed by an “unknown prowler” (later identified as Mrs. Voorhees, Jason’s mother). Two more counselors are slaughtered subsequent to intimacy, and another girl is shot with an arrow before she can attend her sexual rendezvous. John Carpenter’s Halloween also begins with the murder of two young lovers, which is only the beginning of a long line of lustful deaths. These films, along with countless others, reinforce the unwritten rule that casual sex leads to death.
In Scream, Wes Craven frequently confronts the horror film formula. The character of Randy (Jamie Kennedy) plays a crucial role in verbalizing these clichés:
There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex. BIG NO NO! BIG NO NO! Sex equals death, okay?
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the film’s heroine, does not heed her friend’s advice. Billy (Skeet Ulrich), Sidney’s beau, convinces her to sleep with him at a party hosted by Stu (Matthew Lillard). Shortly after, Sidney discovers that Stu and Bill have conspired with one another to become “Ghostface.” As if losing her v-card to a serial killer wasn’t enough, Sidney learns that Billy was the one behind her mother’s brutal murder last year. Sidney must now fight for her life as Stu threatens her with a gun, reminding her that “you’re no longer a virgin […] Now you gotta die. Those are the rules.”
Why are those that are sexually active killed off while virgins are allowed to live? In Halloween, Michael Myers easily assassinates teen lovers, however he was unsuccessful in his attempts to kill the virginal Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). The promiscuous are punished for their impurity, while the virtuous “final girl” is rewarded for her integrity.
Merriam-Webster defines the term “virgin” as: “a person who has never had sexual intercourse; a person who is naive, innocent, or inexperienced; untouched; unspoiled; immaculate; pristine; flawless.” How is this related to one’s ability to flee from a sociopath with a knife? According to films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Jennifer’s Body, and many more, sex impedes one’s ability to make intelligent decisions.
For some reason, a person’s sexual virginity (particularly in regard to females) has been thought to have a direct correlation to one’s intuition and discernment– as if the decision to have sex could not possibly have been thought out thoroughly. In horror movies (and traditionally as a culture), it is assumed that a person’s judgement is poor because he or she decided to fornicate.
Since ancient times, virginity has been linked to the state of one’s eternal soul. The Aztec’s sacrificed their virgins for rain, a successful harvest, triumph in battle, and healthy lives. Why was a virgin necessary for such rituals? She represents child-like innocence with little exposure to “real life;” a virgin portrays something good that has yet to be “tainted” by the world.
Society as a whole has progressively become more tolerant of sex. New generations are moving away from traditional views; opinions are becoming more diverse in regards to sex and many other “taboo” topics. Sex in the horror genre has been portrayed as a vile sin, punishable by death, for many years. It Follows sheds a new light on the use of sex in modern storytelling.
David Robert Mitchell, writer and director of It Follows, uses sex as a weapon, self-defense, and release. The act of sex can rid the current holder of the curse, freeing him or her (at least for a period of time) from “it.” The creature cannot be killed, despite Jay and her friends’ many attempts. The only defense anyone has against it is through sexual transfer. Greg (Daniel Zovatto), believing that he can take on the creature himself, jumps at the opportunity to sleep with Jay. After Greg contracts the curse, the monster uses it’s one and only weapon to kill him: sex. The creature drains Greg’s life-force through sexual intercourse. Following Greg’s death, Jay is once again stalked by the demon entity. Paul (Keir Gilchrist), a childhood friend, convinces Jay to let him take on the curse. Immediately after intercourse, Paul has relations with a prostitute. Since the woman’s job is to have sex, she will (ideally) spread the curse to someone else and keep it far away from both Jay and Paul– freeing them from the immediate danger.
Typical horror films execute hormonal teenagers during or directly after fornication. It Follows takes the theme of sex to a whole new level. Instead of denouncing sex, Mitchell shows just how much power it has: sex caused Jay to become accursed by a deadly entity, but it also freed her from the hellish life she had come to know. Sex can create life and liberate us, or it can hold us hostage and ruin us. Whether one wants to admit it or not, sex is a completely necessary and fundamental part of life. It all begins and ends with sex.
Mitchell, David Robert, dir. It Follows. 2014. RADiUS-TWC, 2015. Film.
Cunningham, Sean S., dir. Friday the 13th. 1980. Paramount Pictures, 1980. DVD.
Carpenter, John, dir. Halloween. 1978. Compass International Pictures, 1978. DVD.
Craven, Wes, dir. Scream. 1996. Dimension Films, 1996. DVD.
Kusama, Karyn, dir. Jennifer’s Body. 2009. Twentieth Centure Fox, 2009. DVD.
Rosenblatt, Nina. “Visual and Other Pleasures Laura Mulvey.” Film Quarterly 43.4 (1990): 59-60. Web.
Kousakis, Anastasia. “Why Is America So Obsessed with Virginity?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 8 May 2009. Web. 19 May 2015.
Ashliman, D.L. “Human Sacrifice in Legends and Myths.” Human Sacrifice in Legends and Myths. University of Pittsburgh, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 May 2015.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 May 2015.
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