So let’s discuss what’s going on here in terms of its basic figurative framework. It begins at Jeff (or inaccurately Hugh) and his relationship with Jay. They play a game while in line for the movies (a line for the multiplex these days? This must be fantasy). Jeff must choose a person that he’d switch places with, and Jay has two opportunities to guess who that is. Jeff chooses the child and goes on to explain what he values in youth. So here it presents a man with the desire to return to adolescence, and who has been cursed by a stalking polymorph that can be reassigned only through sex. Sex is not directly the fear though. It just happens to be the bridging point in maturation, the beginning of adulthood, and ultimately the confirmation of an inevitable death. Another thing, Jay doesn’t get the guess right. She assumes he chose the father, or the man with a woman, and at this point has not been instilled with the fear.
What follows is a conspicuous soliloquy, a bookend of sorts, whereafter everything changes for Jay. I went over this briefly in my review, and I will paraphrase here. She tells of her childhood daydreams, of sneaking off with cute boys, driving with them, but not necessarily going anywhere. This essentially entails the wonders of adulthood as seen from afar, the sex without consequence, and the desire to remain in the comfort of youth through it all. But soon sex is no longer so inconsequential. Soon it’s heavily burdened by fear, and guilt, and sometimes it occurs strictly as a result of those things. Quite different from the innocent laughter that arose when Jay and Paul shamelessly threw nudie mags out in the front yard when they were kids. It Follows seems to suggest that this change in attitude over sex is also what follows us to our demise.
Take note of the use of water. When (In the film’s most terrifying sequence) Jay is driven to sex with three strangers out of fear (passing ‘it’ along to preserve her life), the pool she arrived in the film with is shown broken and dried out just after. The sequence leaves an air of ambiguity though, they cut to her crying before they show whether or not she follows through. But the terror is no different, it’s horrifying that she’d even have to consider such an act out of fear. It’s easily the film’s most painful and horrifying scene.
Perhaps in contrast to that, making love to her first kiss Paul cues the rain. It’s almost a reminder of those innocent times, but not quite enough to fill the pool. That first kiss also took place aside a glowing blue pool, which Paul and Jay decide would be the best place to kill the follower. The image of Jay hovering in the pool, to me, echoes her daydreams. She wants to remain in adolescence, but not idle, floating, and occasionally, getting a taste of the adult world. So the water seems like some kind of safety, the antithesis to the ocean in The 400 Blows. The films first nameless victim seeks refuge at the rim of the ocean’s waves, and so too does Jay frequently visit. To articulate it sounds lame, but evidently it seems to represent some symbol of innocence. The beast refuses to step in the pool, and the protagonists use it as a last resort in killing it. When sex is turned to out of fear, the pool dries out, when turned to out of trust and a flicker of innocence, rain.
On second viewing, I noticed Jay’s mother. On the first I nearly forgot she was there. But with very brief vignettes she’s established and makes a strong impression on the whole. She’s seen passed out with alcohol and cigarettes nearby, and drinking in the background as an almost hidden presence in another scene. And Jay’s father who’s either dead, missing or both (who knows) manifests in the end for the film’s final showdown. The “IT” also manifests as old people (as if to be literally chased by old age), loved ones, and ghoulish little children too. For Greg, it manifests as his own mother, who eerily pounces on him and makes love with him to death. It screams Freud, and these types of sexual fears and perversities are another thing that drives our protagonist into ‘adulthood’ and even death.
And my friends beckoned me afterwards, why stay near the suburbs (fly across the world!)? But to leave the suburbs, the home of their adolescence, is counterintuitive. They don’t want to be chased into a decrepit adulthood, represented by the old rotting homes of metro Detroit. They want to remain in the comfort zone of their childhoods (represented by the cleanly suburbs). We end with Jay and Paul walking around the neighborhood in synonymous monochrome (still followed), drained of their primary highlighter colors, attempting to bring some of the color back by rekindling their blameless origins. And then kids in the distance, the ambience of their play, the last haunting note.
So the IT manifests as a few different fears, fears that drive us into adulthood and death unwillingly. It’s relentless slow approach is terrifying, as is the constant plummet into a wearier stage of life, and an inevitable death. That’s what I can come up with so far (perhaps a 3rd viewing will reveal more), but it’s proof enough that the film’s not just hell bent on scaring kids away from sex. Admittedly, I have yet to decipher Jay’s play with nature (the ant, the flower, the slivers of grass). But if you manage to peer beyond the seduction of it’s sultry surfaces, you’ll find there’s a surplus of content to run by. Here’s hoping this film doesn’t chase me into a bitter old age.
Check out my review for more details: Here