It Follows: A Hunting Ground

When a hunter spots his prey, he would never let it out of his sight, at the same time, he will not let his prey know that he is there. He shoots his prey dead when the time is right. The same things happen in the 2014 film It Follows by Director David Robert Mitchell. With the hunter being “It” and the prey being Jay, the protagonist of the film. Jay, however, turns the table around at the climax of the movie where she becomes the hunter.

The first 10 minutes of the movie is when this “It” follows Hugh, Jay’s boyfriend at that time, and passes this stalker-ish “It” to Jay through sexual intercourse. This “It” is a supernatural entity that only one person can see and this person will be the target of elimination for this “It”. One can pass on this bullseye through sexual intercourse, however, once the “It” kills the current person that has the invisible bullseye mark “It” will come for the previous holders of the bullseye. The rest of the movie showcases Jay’s experiences and struggles with this “It”.

Linda Williams’ article, “When the Woman Looks”, states that women are usually the victims in horror films. They are the ones that normally fall prey to the killer and how they meet their death is commonly shown on-screen. This is because that women in horror films are usually gazed at by the audience or the audience’s gaze usually falls on the women. It could be said that women only exist to be looked at or gazed upon. This concept is held true in this movie because Jay, a woman, was the center of everyone’s gaze; her family and friends who try to help her, Paul and Greg that offered to have sex with her so that the invisible bullseye would be transferred to them, Hugh (or better yet we call him by his real name Jeff) who targeted her to only use her for his personal gains, the “It” who is set on killing her, and the audience’s attention.

Aside from being the center of everyone’s attention, Jay, a representation of females in the horror genre, is seen as a sexual object. Hugh or Jeff, her deceiving ex-boyfriend, used her for sex and for the “It” to pursue her instead of him, then after that he just disappeared with no trace. She had no choice but to accept her fate because she had no control over it. She had loved him but he took advantage of it and used it as an opportunity to save his own life despite what the “It” would do to her. Aside from Hugh/Jeff, Jay was also sexualized by both Paul and Greg, with slightly differing reasons. Greg only wanted to “help” Jay because he saw an opportunity to have sex, while Paul wanted to help Jay because he has liked her since they were kids but, of course, he also wanted to have sex with her. In the end, these three guys objectified Jay as a sexual object for their pleasure and advantage.

Not only is there the concept of objectification but Jay is also portrayed as the victim while Greg and Paul are the “heroes” who could save Jay. Around 70% of the film was Jay trying to run away from the “It”, and in a constant state of fear. While her friends and sister can only comfort her even though they do not understand what’s going on. Greg and Paul offered to have sexual intercourse to save her, leading to Greg’s demise as he did not believe there was an “It” that would look for and kill him. With his death, the “It” turns its gaze towards Jay again. In Williams’ article she mentions that the active investigating gaze of a woman would lead to her victimization, which could be likened to Jay’s efforts to keep distance with “It”, and accepting Greg’s offer of freedom from the “It” as these attempts were not successful.

Nearing the end of the film, the tables have turned as Jay is now the one objectifying men in search of who to pass on the “It” to. She’s had enough of running away to which she decided to kill the “It”. This part of the film turns the huntee to the hunter, and is now the one who looks and searches and not the target of the gaze. To end her suffering, she devised a plan with her friends and sister to bring out the “It” and kill it. The movie’s ending leaves it to the imagination of the audience, is the person walking quite a few ways behind them the “It” they have destroyed? Or is it just a person walking? We may never know.

Linda Williams,“When the Woman Looks.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002), 61-65.

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