Monday, April 13, 2015

Fear of the Follower

The light of the sun pierced our squinty lids as we emerged from the old school Nashville movie house. We’d spent the last 90 minutes watching “It Follows,” a dark movie surrounded by dark settings inside a dark theater, and the abrupt shift to utter brightness washed out our vision and left us blinded.

The word “Follow” has become the focal point for this hit indie horror movie and a popular (at least initially) horror TV show (“The Following”) in the past few years. It's a scary word, "follow." Rockwell always feels like somebody's watching him*. Ironic, no? That, at the same time the number one goal of today's teenager is to be famous, we find ourselves horrified by the notion of anything or anyone following us.

* -- Or, at least he felt like that back in the mid-'80s. Maybe he was being watched by Sting. That guy was creepy, watched every step you took and made out with high school girls when he wasn't teaching them that famous book by Nabokov.

To be watched, to be followed, to be paid attention to. It's the stuff of our biggest dreams... and our biggest nightmares. Since the beginning of time, or at least since "Cool Hand Luke," few things have been as desirable to most of us in our developmental years as finding that perfect balance between being adored and belonging, being both a unique snowflake and also part of something bigger.

"It Follows" is not the most entertaining horror movie in history, but it is one of the most ambitious. The entire movie is an allegory -- or perhaps a collection of allegories -- for what makes the teenage experience so tumultuous, horrifying and, often only in hindsight, irreplaceably and incomparably beautiful. Every detail in the movie exposes those confusing teenage desires, yearnings the kids don't even understand, yearnings that would be impossible to explain even if they didn't mutate and evolve almost daily.

Much of being a teenager, when looked at through a glass too darkly, is not too much unlike a horror movie. Granted, in real life, the gory brutality is in the head and the heart rather than spilled out in bloody masses on the family driveway.

And absolutely nowhere is the mashup of teenage fear and anxiety, hope and hunger more prevalent than in the realm of romance and sex. Are romance and sex the same? Is it OK to want one without the other? Is being sexually aroused in and of itself wrong? How certain can you be of someone else's love for you? How certain should you be before you sleep with him/her? What if your certainty proves flawed? How much will heartbreak destroy you when love goes awry (and, if you listen to adults, they seem certain that teenage love won't last, right? So you can't risk getting too attached to this person because it's all doomed before it begins…)

Who's to say how much mental hard drive space these questions occupy in the average teenager's mind, but it's a lot. At times in the hormone-addled life, these questions are as big or bigger than questions about God and the self. If you throw the fundamental religious background onto this particular topic -- What will God think of me? -- the fear only grows. Suddenly your eternal soul is at risk, and allowing your unwed penis or vagina to engage in naughty, dirty, sinful activities is akin to worshiping the devil himself.

Nothing about "It Follows" blatantly tries to address these questions and concerns, but it's always there, lurking, following. The curse at the heart of the movie. The reactions of friends and family to the girl getting cursed (Is she cursed, or mentally unstable, or is she simply poorly-equipped to handle rejection and betrayal? Is there really much of a difference between the three in the world of teenagers?). The way the cursed kids die. The way the demon following you is never in a hurry to get to you, is at least as interested in driving you crazy as in killing you.

The movie is not unlike Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods." Both capture the fatalism and fear inherent in teenage romance (arguably in all romance), and neither are insulting enough to offer easy or happy endings.

1 comment:

troutking said...

Sounds interesting!