David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows comes with a concept so simple and genius that it’s hard to believe nobody’s thought of it before. After Jay (aces newcomer Maika Monroe) has sex for the first time with her new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), he tells her that he’s just passed something onto her. No, it’s not an STD—he’s just given a sexually transmitted ghost/monster, one that takes the form of various people only the inflicted person can see, and only he or she can see those people. You’re dead if the creature catches up to you. The only way to save yourself is to have sex with someone else and pass the nightmare onto them.
It Follows is like nothing genre fans have seen before, and yet it owes so much to what came before it. A cross-breeding of tropes from the past half a century of horror cinema, the movie is gorgeously shot, vividly told, and full of teen characters that have an unusual amount of compassion for one another.
Today, we are going to be talking about the film’s fairly indistinct ending and what it possibly means. So, needless to say, a SPOILER ALERT is in full effect. Before we talk about the film’s finale, however, let’s take a look back at the events leading up to it.
After Jay initially gets infected by her boyfriend, she soon realizes that everything that he told her was indeed the truth. The next day at school, Jay encounters an old woman in a night gown slowly approaching her, prompting her to hightail it out of there.
Jay’s friends – Yara (Olivia Luccardi), Paul (Keir Gilchrist), her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and her neighbor Greg (Daniel Zovatto) – ultimately choose to accept the crazy premise that’s being presented and decide to help their friend in any way that they can. This begins by helping Jay find Hugh (whose real name turns out to be Jeff Redmond). He basically reiterates that her only chance is to pass it in on to someone else or get as far away from it as you can and hope to buy some time.
With that, the gang of friends head up to Greg’s lakehouse, where Jay learns to fire a gun. The entity, taking multiple guises, eventually catches up and attacks Jay on the lakeshore. She shoots it, only momentarily incapacitating it. Jay flees the house alone in Greg’s car but narrowly avoids hitting a truck and instead crashes into a cornfield. She wakes up in the hospital with a broken arm, surrounded by her friends.
In the hospital, Greg sleeps with Jay to pass on the curse, and insists he does not believe in it. Later, Jay sees Greg smash the window to his own house and enter. She tries to warn the real Greg on the telephone but he does not answer. She runs into the house and finds the entity in the form of Greg’s half-naked mother knocking on his door; it jumps on Greg and has sex with him (or something to that effect) as he dies.
Jay flees by car and spends the night by the beach. On a beach in the morning, Jay sees three young men on a boat. She undresses and walks into the water. It’s heavily implied that she had sex with at least one (if not all) of these men in order to buy some more time.
Back home, Paul expresses his feelings about Jay sleeping with Greg and not him; offering to have sex with her. She refuses… for now.
The group then forms a plan to kill the entity by luring it into an abandoned swimming pool and dropping electrical devices into the water to electrocute it. Jay, waiting in the pool, spots the entity and realizes it has taken the appearance of her father as it throws the devices at her. Firing at an invisible target, Paul accidentally wounds Yara, but shoots the entity in the head, causing it to fall into the pool. As it drags Jay underwater, he shoots it again and Jay escapes. The entity leaves a large cloud of blood but no body is present.
Afterwards. Jay and Paul have sex. We then see Paul drive past some past prostitutes in a seedy part of town. Sometime later, Jay and Paul hold hands and walk down the street while someone follows close behind. Cut to the end credits.
So many questions, it’s hard to even find a starting point. Did Paul pick up a prostitute? Did Jay have sex with those guys on the boat? Why does the thing usually wear white? Why was Jay’s pool destroyed? Does the thing sex people to death or what? Why is the thing so angry? Why!?!
As far as the film’s final scene, it seems to be up to each individual viewer to surmise whether the kids beat the thing or whether they’re still being followed. As for the moments leading up to the finale, this is what the director himself had to say when he spoke to Vulture, with regards to the character’s anomalous attempt to get rid of the monster:
“It’s the stupidest plan ever! It’s a kid-movie plan, it’s something that Scooby-Doo and the gang might think of, and that was sort of the point. What would you do if you were confronted by a monster and found yourself trapped within a nightmare? Ultimately, you have to resort to some way of fighting it that’s accessible to you in the physical world, and that’s not really going to cut it. We kind of avoid any kind of traditional setup for that sequence, because in more traditional horror films, there might be a clue that would lead them to figure out a way to destroy this monster. I intentionally avoided placing those. Instead, they do their best to accomplish something, and we witness its failure. It’s probably a very non-conventional way of approaching the third-act confrontation, but we thought it was a fun way to deal with it.”
As stated before, in the final shot of the film, Jay and Paul are walking down the street holding hands, with someone walking behind them, that we all assume is the demon. In regards to that scene, the director says:
“We had a couple variations on it — I think we had some where he was really far back, and then some where no one would ever miss him — but we settled on the one where he’s there, but not too close. It allows people to make up their own mind of what it means.”
Perhaps if Jay and Paul continue to have sex with one another, they’ll continue to transfer the demon back and fourth until it becomes utterly confused and simply moves on. Who knows. One thing’s for certain. You know how Jaws made you never want to swim in an ocean again? Or how Psycho turned showers into potential death traps? Well, It Follows could ultimately become the catalyst that popularizes abstinence nationwide. Seriously, this movie could end up closing more legs than a Bill Belichick sex tape.
What did you guys think of It Follows and its ambiguous ending? Leave your thoughts, theories, and explanations in the comment section below.