It Follows (2015)
The film opens with a wide shot of a leafy suburban street, and we look closely for whatever we think the director wants us to see. Like Jay, we are trained from the start to scan the horizon for trouble. Jay is innocent, a virgin, sensitive to nature, noticing insects and leaves on the trees. After sex with Hugh in his car, she talks about what might be different now, while studying the flowers growing through the concrete. Seconds later, Hugh has chloroformed her, and her childhood is suddenly over. After showing her the thing that will now come after her, he dumps her half-naked in the street and drives off.
This is a deeply sad film. It’s an allegory for rape, and the emotional aftermath for the victim. At the cinema, Jay and Hugh play the ‘who would you swap places with’ game, but Hugh is trying to swap places with Jay, so it is revealing he chooses the little boy, because he doesn’t know yet about death. Hugh infects Jay with a sexually-transmitted curse in the shape of an endlessly approaching zombie. Jay’s sister, Kelly, and Kelly’s friends, Paul and Yara, try to help. All the young people, including the older, promiscuous Greg, are sweet and kind to each other. We never see Jay’s mother’s face, and her father only shows up as one of the thing’s many violent forms. The adults cannot help her.
Hugh’s assault traumatises Jay, and not only is she not sure what happened, nobody believes her account at first either. Jay finds herself in a different, frightening, more serious world. In a series of skillfully constructed set pieces, we follow Jay’s journey, from innocence, through trauma and support, to some kind of resolution. Passing the curse on buys you time, but doesn’t break the chain. Hugh has condemned her to a life of anxiety (isn’t that the definition of PTSD?) and now she can never know how far death is behind her.