After the past two films that we had seen at the time (Deadgirl and The Innkeepers), it was a breath of fresh air that we were finally going to watch a traditional, mainstream, box office hit. Coming into the film showing that day, I had watched It Follows at least thrice. It was a movie that I always recommended to my friends; it’s a perfect blend of superb storytelling and terrorizing thrills. It is a horror film that, for me, is just right on the scare-o-meter: something you would be scared of, but not something that would keep you up at night.
The story revolves around a certain “it” following its victims until it finally, as seen in the film, kills them. The “it” can come in many shapes and sizes. “It” can be your friend, a hospital patient, your living mother, or even your dead father! Although its form changes, there are, as I would think, two things that are common among all of them. First of all, they all walk – or sometimes run and climb – in one direction: towards you. This was seen throughout the movie as the film’s protagonist, Jay (Maika Monroe), was being followed by all these kinds of entities after she contracted “it” during a one night stand with a guy she was out with. Second, these entities have the end-goal of killing their victims. Once they kill their victims, they then go on to kill the person who contracted the disease before the victim.
Women, such as Jay, have always seemingly been the poor victims of such horror films. We have seen it in Triangle, where the film revolves (and keeps revolving) around the story of the seemingly psychotic Jess, who eventually submits to her fate despite her heroic efforts. We saw it in The Autopsy of Jane Doe, where the victim and monster, Jane Doe, was an innocent victim of a blatant witch hunt from the 1600s. In Innkeepers, the victim was a poor old front desk lady who just wanted to see a ghost. Heck, in Deadgirl, a poor invincible girl is raped and even killed multiple times, tied against her will and also unable to control the situation. To date, we have seen this phenomenon happen in all of the films we have seen so far. So why is the female so objectified and powerless in all these horror films?
In Linda Williams’ essay, she mentions the difference between the male gaze and the female gaze. The former has the presence of a desire, while the other has the characteristic of blindness, which signifies the lack of a desire. It is this lack of desire, to know, that puts these female characters in the situation that they are in. Moreover, when they do indeed, look, they are put at the forefront of the blame. To the viewers, in looking, it is the fault of the females for putting themselves in the situation they are in, as well as causing the situation itself. In It Follows, we see both of these examples firmly entrenched into the film.
First of all, the blindness is seen by her failure to recognize the monster after the first guy she sleeps with already shows her the monster. This initial lack of desire to get away from it, to brush it off, leads to her further being dug into a trap as a victim. It is only at the third encounter when she finally believes in its presence, finally trying to escape “it.” Once females like Jay fall into this trap, they are taken advantage of by, usually, males who make them the object of their desires. Sadly, most of the time, they have nothing they can do about this, as once men set their eyes upon the female, who is unaware to this, they pounce and take advantage of the subject.
Next, when she does actually see it to be real and recognizes that it’s not just a one-time thing, she starts passing on the curse and affecting innocent people. This turns her into, although she does not know it, a monster. Just to save herself from the impending “it,” she continues to pass on the curse, sleeping with other people who are unaware of the situation. This leads to a couple of deaths that are inflicted by her and her alone. She also affects the lives of her friends, who now have the responsibilities of looking after both her, and themselves.
Eventually, Jay submits to her fate and lets things fall where they will towards the film’s open-ended ending. We will never truly find out whether the curse was transmitted further away, but one thing is for sure. There will always be things that we will never be able to get away from. We are only always delaying the inevitable, as “it” will always follow.