In horror, there are two kinds of sex: sex that makes you kill or sex that gets you killed. On the one hand, you’ve got the fairly hackneyed sex = death equations you’ll find in a majority of slasher films. Look, I don’t know why Phantasm’s Tall Man needs to pretend to be a hot blonde and get a guy to orgasm during an liaison on Aunt Trudy’s grave marker before slipping a blade in his ribs, but clearly, it’s an important part of the process. Carol Clover’s seminal Men, Women, and Chainsaws, which fully explicated the idea of the virginal Final Girl, spends a lot of time on the lustful male gaze and its conjunction with killers getting stabby. But sex might make a monster of you, too. As Angela Carter reminded us, the worst werewolves are hairy on the inside. There’s what Joe Bob Briggs calls “venereal horror” in the oeuvre of King Body Horror David Cronenberg, his Rabid being the perfect example, with Marilyn Chambers as patient zero in an outbreak of rapey zombies. Vampires are nothing but metaphorical sex-from-the-neck-up, with what True Blood called fang boners, Ken Russell’s libidinous cult of the big white snake that lives in the deep dark hole in The Lair of the White Worm, and bi-curious chomping a feature, not a bug, in supernatural romances ranging from Jonathan Harker and Dracula to Whitley Streiber’s The Hunger. Sure, sometimes there is innocuous sex, but it’s so rare, and when it exists, you can count on it to contrast with some real snugglings of the damned. Think Kirsty in Hellraiser, her normal hook-up with a cute guy serving as the sex-positive baseline against the deeply problematic passions examined in every other frame of the movie. You might say it’s not friends with benefits; it’s friends with consequences.
Where sex functions as a portal to bad places in most horror – we see your bits, then we see your guts, but always at some remove of actual causation — the sex in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014) is not deferred, metaphorical, or sublimated in any way. It is right there, front and center, the explicit reason for all the bad things that follow. One of the things that I love about the movie is that it’s comfortable leaving unanswered questions about what the monster in the film actually is or why it’s doing what it does, but there’s no ambiguity about the sex. The monster is, effectively, a fatal STD, although one with a Ringu-like twist. Like a phantom crawling out of an image on a cursed videotape, the monster can be passed on. A cursed person has sex with you, the monster comes after you. You have sex with someone else, and the monster goes after that person. The catch, of course, is it will still come back after you once it’s killed the person you passed it on to, so you better hope no one breaks the chain. Better still, hope that many, many more links get forged, because this monster never stops. The only thing between you and a grisly death is someone else’s.
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