Past the era of premarital sex being socially forbidden, past the era of free love, complex forms of fear and guilt follow young people like a casually strolling stranger in 2015's It Follows. Taking the subtext of moral recrimination typical of a slasher film, this movie dissolves it into something more amorphous and intriguingly reflective of the greyer landscape of sexual freedom for young people to-day.
The It of the title, not to be confused with Stephen King's clown, isn't always a random stranger. Sometimes It's a friend but It always follows expressionless at a slow, steady pace. The only statements It offers are what one might infer from the shapes It takes. The first time we see It--or at least, the first time we know for sure we're seeing It--It takes the form of a naked woman walking towards the film's protagonist, Jay (Maika Monroe), who has been tied to a wheelchair by Jeff (Jake Weary), the guy Jay had just had consensual sex with.
One might see this as a body image issue, Jay's confrontation with a prototypical female body provoked by the unfamiliarity of the sexual experience though this was not Jay's first time having sex. It was her first time with Jeff and presumably the first time her partner has chloroformed her and tied her up afterwards. There's a bit of a chicken and the egg thing--is a monster manifesting because she's been traumatised, or has she been traumatised because of a monster manifesting? Because that's why Jeff's tied her up--so she doesn't run away when he's trying to warn her. Jeff has passed It on to Jay—before, It followed him, now It follows her. If It kills her, It'll follow him again, and so on.
It's no surprise that many have interpreted It as a sexually transmitted disease and I think it's certainly fair to look at It that way. But I like how It can function for many different things, some purely psychological.
The movie makes quite a lot of references to literature and other movies. The first date we see Jay and Jeff go on is to a screening of Charade with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, a movie about a woman pursued by several men, including one who at one moment seems to be an enemy and at other moments a comrade. The very concept of a charade implies It is a mask for something else.
Jay's friend reads from Dostoevsky's The Idiot and says "It's about Paul," Paul being Jay's innocent, true hearted childhood sweetheart, connecting him to the chaste, forgiving, and Christ-like protagonist of the novel. A recitation of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" introduces the discord between ideals of sex and messy or banal realities.
The film's also an exciting chase and suspense story. Quentin Tarantino liked the movie but criticised it for not being consistent with its mythology. I'm not exactly sure what he meant unless he meant a scene where It seems to catch up with Jay over a very long distance quickly after we've been told It only walks everywhere. This didn't really bother me but I did like the idea that one might get the idea that this was something that could be staved off indefinitely but only with constant wariness.