Open Arms: The Need For Connection In It Follows
I’m honest, whether you want me to be or not; it’s the degree to which I’m either angry or pleased that dictates my delivery of this honesty. With that in mind, here’s my assessment of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows: it felt like a bad blind date. It felt like all of my friends wanted to set me up with this movie, and it showed up to the restaurant looking fine as hell, but then I discovered that we’re completely incompatible, and it kept picking its teeth through dinner to boot. (I’ve had some time to think about this.) However, in the famed words of one of my college professors, just because you find something bording doesn’t mean that it’s without meaning. And damned if I didn’t get some meaning out of this film. My largest problem – the unlikable characters – combined with the shots and the theme highlighted the need for human connection in an age where we’d rather just sit around ignoring each other.
Our first meeting with Jay (Maika Monroe) and company is one that is more than a bit disconnected. From the monotone greeting at the pool to the group indoors, no one is too enthused about interacting with one another. One is reading; another is focused on the television; yet another is on the phone at the kitchen table. In fact, Jay has to dip her wet hair onto someone in order to get acknowledgement of her presence. It doesn’t get better during her date with Hugh/Jeff (Jake Weary), especially as they play the little game of picking someone with whom to trade places. Both the game’s nature and the purpose are telling: despite that they’re on a date, they have to decide where they would rather be. Jeff’s answer is to revert back to the potential of childhood: he picks the little boy, with the explanation of, “How cool would it be to have your whole life ahead of you?…. Look at how happy that kid is… Total freedom.” Jake would rather have the ability to shit his pants without retribution than go on a date and have the potential to develop a meaningful relationship. He’s not the only one, either: while Kelly (Lili Sepe), Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Paul (Keir Gilchrist) are playing cards, no one makes eye contact or talks about anything meaningful; it’s simply filler until the next thing comes along. If hte goal was to make these characters completely unlikable, then Mitchell succeeded. I hated these hipsters. I wanted to slap their ironic haircuts and tell them to put their e-readers away and actually talk to someone. Yes, I’m that old, and yes, you can get off my lawn.
Even the explanation of the curse by Jake is an exercise in avoiding contact, which seems counter-productive in light of the nature of the curse. The curse can only be passed through sexual contact, making it a type of STD. In order for it to be successfully passed on, the victim must have sex with another person, who then must pass it on to someone else, lest the curse return to the originator. The curse must be run from in order to avoid death, and the escape is intimacy of a pretty intense form: getting naked and putting your bits together. The ironic thing is that the curse seems to make its pursuit personal in order to get close to the victim: Jake warns that it will do “whatever helps it get close to you,” including looking “like people you love, just to hurt you.” In fact, the curse sends its envoys to Jay in various forms of nudity, whether it’s a topless woman, a naked female figure, or a man in his underwear. It’s not just trying to touch you: it’s trying to connect on a primal level, in essence attempting to gain very personal access to the victim. Case in point: after Greg (Daniel Zovatto) has the curse passed on to him by Jay, he is attacked and killed by a half-naked version of his mother, who proceeds to grind on his pelvis. There’s a deep need to touch someone, whether it’s sexual or the infliction of a deep emotional wound.
This is enough to make you wonder about the statement that the film is making. We have the young characters that can’t seem to be bothered to interact with each other on anything other than a superficial level. We have a curse that wants to be physically close and emotionally manipulative in order to drain its victim of all life force, making intimacy of any level painful. And then we have the shots themselves throughout the film: lone limbs hanging against blades of grass and out of cars, or broken in unnatural stances over dead bodies. Nothing can touch in this film without causing harm. This means either one of two things: either connection will kill you, or current culture of connection in anything but a physical manner will kill you. It’s pitting the death of the body versus the death of the mind and social spirit. It’s enough to make you question which one is worse – should we live in our silos, or should we risk death and pain in order to get close to someone else and form something meaningful? Pretty grim options right there.
Perhaps that was the reason for the characters that we just can’t attach ourselves to: they empty husks, a product of the era of social media activism and scrolling through to find the next shiny thing. The lack of connection keeps them safe from harm, rendering them unable to see the dark forces around them. However, one can’t help but wonder: is this truly a life?