Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi
Director: David Robert Mitchell
This film is so unusual, and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on it if you’ve seen it. But please be aware, in talking about this film this time, there may be spoilers so SPOILER ALERT.
The film is about a curse. A teenage girl sleeps with her new boyfriend for the first time only to be told immediately afterwards that she is now being stalked by a creature that will kill her if it catches her. It walks slowly, and will take on either the figure of someone you love or someone that will terrify you. If you keep moving it can’t get you, and if you sleep with someone else, it will go after them instead. But once it’s killed them, it will come for you, and on down the list back to where it started.
So it’s a sexually transmitted curse.
The young cast are all incredibly natural, and the shots show an America that is struggling, since the recession and the burst of the prime bubble. Jay is the main character, and the friends that surround her are like a family, albeit a perhaps incestuous one, since it appears that they have all at some point dated or slept with each other. At first it’s unclear who belongs to which house, since they all seem to live at each others places, and the parents are so very absent or in the background.
It’s a film that’s clearly making a point, but I feel like I’m not sure what that point is. I mean, it works very well as a horror film, but it’s so clear that the girl at the heart of the story is an “at risk teen”. She lives in Detroit, she’s not wealthy, and her friends and herself are like mini-adults. At no point do they consider going to an older person for help, but they loyally stick together and help each other. And since the parents are basically non-existent, this makes sense. It’s a wonderful choice for storytelling, since it puts the fight for survival firmly on the shoulders of the main characters.
But the parents absence has one exception: when they are personified by the creature. The forms that the creature takes on in this film are often sexual, such as a rape victim, a naked woman. It also takes on some forms like a child or a looming tall man. But it also, significantly, takes on the form of the victims parent on two notable occaisions. And when we find out that the creature murders it’s victims whilst sexually violating them, this suddenly feels overly significant.
So what is this film all about then? Is it pointing how how at risk teens are in places like this where poverty abounds? It seems that the girl is considered disposable by the guy who woos and sleeps with her, because he comes from a better neighbourhood. Is it making a comment about how dangerous it is to engage in sex before marriage, or with someone you don’t know really well? Is it saying something about incest and poverty?
The film also shows sex in a way that’s not romanticized at all. The initial encounter takes place in the back of a car, other encounters involve the girl allowing herself to be slept with to pass on the curse, none of which seem all that enjoyable to the people engaging in it, especially Jay herself. In this way, the curse seems to be that it makes you engage in unwanted sexual acts with strangers, acts that potentially could be dangerous and degrading. The characters talk about and look at porn, which is again sex without romance, and point out that they didn’t understand that it wasn’t appropriate to them when they first found it as children. This again feels significant, but why?
You can definitely watch this film simply as a creepy horror, and it’s certainly original, and offers great scares. But if you understand that horror films are a barometer of the fears of the society it caters to, then this film seems to be making a really important point, and I wish that I knew what it was. I enjoyed the scary parts, they’re so well done, but often I felt sad for these characters, struggling with problems that are too big for them, being murdered and violated. There is no future, no joy and no beauty and romance in the lives of these kids from the wrong side of the track. But what an amazing film.
Please feel free to discuss in the comments below.
See It If: you’ve ever thought about having sex on the first date…