31 Days of Wicked Watching [DAY 15]: I’ll be Right Here Waiting for You

Yes, Richard Marx inspired my headline. I’m not ashamed. And I’m linking the video here because it provides some context to the film I am about to talk about: “It Follows.” Now, I certainly could have gone the route of The Police’s Every Breath You Take, as it may just be the stalker song of the 20th Century, but I felt there was more love and endearment needed. And the stalker tone probably would have made equal sense for this movie, but I just love the move so much that I couldn’t give it full connotative stalker status. This 2014 movie, I would argue and others have as well, is hands-down one of the best, if not the best, horror films of that decade.

“It Follows,” like “Teeth,” has a very explicit connection to sex and sexuality, and an undertone of disease, particularly those that are sexually transmitted. It would certainly be considered a supernatural film; it is also certainly classified as something that is psychological in nature. What is fascinating is that the two merge in the transmission process that shares the killer with a new host. This process is done through the act of sex. In order to save yourself, you must have sex and pass it on to the next host. Now, the host is not housing the killer-supernatural being as one would traditionally assume it to be or that the tropes of “hosts” would be traditionally outlined, explained or used. In this case, the host is the person that supernatural being comes after in hopes of killing them; when you pass it on, you are no longer on death’s immediate list. If that person dies, however, the last person host becomes the target again.

What I love about this film isn’t the homage to historical fear of sex, or a slight tip of the hat to a modern sexual revolution, is that it breaks apart any semblance of security that we normally have in our daily lives or that we come to expect in the viewing of a horror film. You are completely unaware of where “it” is and when “it” will arrive again. And the fact that something so intimate is the only way to save yourself from “it” forces us into accepting that what we see as so incredibly personal is in fact something that is easily disposable among our hierarchy of needs. It extends the idea that sex is not simply something for love and reproductive purposes, but that it is a means for communication and community and shared experience. This is highlighted through horrific elements and jarring fears of the unknown, and we are catapulted through a story that yanks the security blanket from us.

This film will follow you. You will undoubtedly want to watch it more than once in an effort to peel back the distinct and detailed layers, the intricate narrative and the exceptional scriptwriting and performance. I’ve returned to it on a number of occasions and each time I’ve been gifted a new experience and discovery that I was unaware of readings prior. It follows you, so go watch and let it do just that.

ABOUT THE SEX>> The sex-pass off as plot device isn’t actually new. The 2000 film “Cherry Falls,” which is arguably pretty unknown and stars the late Brittany Murphy, uses having sex to avoid death as a key component to the story. In this case, the slasher, in a turn on the traditional rules of horror, kills off people who are virgins. This then leads to rampant sex and a sex party, which does conclude the film as many traditional slasher-horror narratives do. However, what director David Robert Mitchell does in “It Follows” that isn’t done in “Cherry Falls” is to add an additional layer of psychological suspense and the feeling that we may not be aware of who has it and if we are getting it.

Published by Patrick R. Johnson

Patrick is a Ph.D. student and graduate instructor in the SJMC. He comes from nearly a decade of teaching high school journalism and English, and an adjunct professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University (where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees). He is a former Dow Jones Distinguished National Journalism Teacher of the Year. His research interests include the intersection of news literacy, journalism ethics, journalism studies, and professional boundary work. He also focuses his attention on issues of deviance within the media industry, particularly as it relates to issues of sex and issues resulting in paradigm repair. Patrick is also deeply passionate about teaching and the role of journalism schools in the professionalization of their students. He focuses a lot of his thinking on mass communication and journalism pedagogy and identifying ways for journalism courses to be both rewarding in content and enriching in skill. He currently teaches Journalistic Reporting and Writing in the SJMC and taught a number of courses at Marquette, including Media Ethics, Visual Communication, Magazine Design and Production, Digital Journalism 1-3, Strategic Communication Writing, and the Journalism Capstone course for the department. His work in curriculum, instruction, and educational leadership includes serving as the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program Chair, designing curriculum to accompany Pulitzer Prize winning content for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reviewing the Praxis national journalism certification exam, and developing a number of courses at the high school and collegiate levels. Patrick served as a 2021 Public Humanities Intern through the Obermann Center where he worked specifically with University Special Collections to develop public-facing exhibits and curriculum materials related to the Tom Brokaw Collection.

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