Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 3: It Follows (2014)
There is a monster that will stalk you. Only you can see it, and it can look like anyone—someone you know, anyone you don’t, literally anyone. It will always come at you at a walking pace, but you should not confuse slowness with stupidity. It will never stop coming unless you pass it on to someone else. You can only pass it on by having sex, but if the monster kills the person you had sex with, it will start pursuing you once again. So now you have a choice: Do you pass the monster on to someone else and hope that it never makes its way back to you, or do you keep the monster to yourself and remain on the run for the rest of your life?
As far as clever twists on movie monsters go, It Follows is one of the most inventive. It plays like an urban legend put to celluloid, which the film reinforces with naturalistic performances from its young adult actors and set dressing that simultaneously evokes retro sensibilities, modern fashion trends, and near-futuristic technologies. This is a seemingly realistic story that could take place at any time because of the timeless root of its terror: People.
Sure, sex is the instigating cause of the teenage protagonist’s victimization, but It Follows cleverly subverts the tropes of slasher flicks from the ’80s and ’90s. In those films, sex is often symbolic of a loss of innocence, a sinful act that justifies the murder of the transgressors and contrasts with how the virginal protagonist survives. It Follows treats the monster-as-sexually-transmitted-disease in such a way that the victims are just that—victims. They aren’t deserving of their fates any more than anyone is deserving of harm for participating in the simple, natural act of sex. The whole point is that sex itself isn’t an issue; it’s how people abuse sex in order to hurt one another that is at play, whether it’s to rid yourself of the monster or just your own survivor’s guilt.
This is why it’s such a stroke of genius that the monster can look like anyone. The film’s brilliant cinematography often rotates on a central axis, showing a panoramic view of people going about their daily lives. Yet any one of them—or potentially none of them—could be a predator waiting to strike. So you scan every single person. Are they walking in the direction of the hunted protagonist? How fast are they walking? Does anything about their appearance betray inhumanity? Do they walk casually or with a sense of purpose? Most of the time, you won’t know whether or not the monster was in the shot, and that potential for its presence is much more terrifying than if we always knew where it was or what it looked like. Anyone can be a monster, and learning to live with that is central to what makes It Follows so engaging.
The film is only a year and a half old and I have seen it at least five times now. Every time, I notice some new detail, some new potential evil lurking in the frame or just outside it. This isn’t a film that relies on jump-scares or creature effects to provoke an instinctual reaction. It Follows is much more sinister, feeding on our innate paranoia to make us fear anyone and everyone. It’s a fear of the inevitable, an unjust thrust into adulthood as we realize that sooner or later we all succumb to the same fate, whether we deserve it in that moment or not. Most of us don’t. But that doesn’t stop it from slowly stalking us to the grave.