Looking and Punishments

It follows introduces Jay, a carefree teenager who is about to go on a date with her new boyfriend, Hugh. She is first seen in the pool with someone peeking at her from the bushes. On her date with Hugh, he seems to see someone she cannot see. On their next date they have sex. Hugh drugs her and tells her about the ‘it’ that will follow her. After this he dumps her in front of her house. Jay begins to see an entity that no one else sees. Jay and her friends locate Hugh and he explains the concept of the ‘it’.  After which they move into Greg’s lake house. The it follows them to the lake house. Jay runs away but crashes the car. When Jay is hospitalized she has sex with Greg. Greg does not believe in the existence of the ‘it’. Eventually, the ‘it’ kills Greg in the form of his mother. Jay and her friends eventually lure the It into the swimming pool in an attempt to electrocute it. The plan fails.This ensues into a fight. Paul eventually shoots the entity and Jay sees the pool turning red with blood. Paul and Jay have sex a few days after. The final scene of the film is with a shot of Jay and Paul holding hands as a stranger follows behind them.

Some personal thoughts on the film: I thought the film was great. It was a fresh representation of a monster. And the film takes on a very efficient play on isolation. Because the monster is something only the main character sees she is effectively isolated from her friends, even when she is with them physically. Aside from this I find the film interesting with how the film seems to punish casual sex because of the existence of the it, and yet,it is only in sex scenes when the characters do not worry about the it.

Linda Williams article is an article on sexuality for horror films. She states that for males it is a ‘point of honor’ to watch horror films while for females they do not look at horror scenes. Women do not look because films usually show their powerlessness and because it is difficult for them to identify with characters on screen. When women look, they are punished. They are meant to see their own fears and weaknesses. Women are often objectified in film. They are distant, something to look at. Women can be somewhat identifiable with the monsters in the film, this is because the monster is sexually different from the male. The monster has no biological explanation and with impossible and possibly harmful qualities. The it in the film has no biological explanation and no motivation but to kill. The it just exists.

The film emulates this. In the beginning of the film, Jay is looked at some of her neighbors whilst she as swimming in her backyard. The second instance is post-sex with Hugh, after she was drugged and tied to a wheelchair, whenever she looked at the it, she was punished with her fear. But Hugh made it a point to look at the monster because it was ‘honorable’ for him to teach her about the entity.  In the middle of the film, Greg was the ‘brave’ one while Jay was the more terrified one. Because Greg was male, he was allowed to be ‘brave’. Whenever Jay looked, she was punished with the sight of the monster. Because the victim is a female, considered weak by the patriarchal society, the audience is able to sympathize more with her fear.

The monster finally takes the form of Jay’s father at the scene by the pool. I think that the it taking the form of her father can be considered as a symbol of the patriarchal society. Those who were present were female with the exception of Paul, who is more effeminate in comparison with Greg. When they are able to defeat the it, the female (Jay) is able to take ‘beat’ the patriarchal system (male- the it in the form of her father). The patriarchal system dictates that women must not have casual sex, which Jay actively (arguably) avoids to spare innocent people. By beating this system Jay is able to take control and have mastery of her own body. She is able to have a normal life and body.

An interesting take on this is that at the last shot of the film, we see Jay and Paul, a couple, a female and an arguable effeminate man, who defeated the conventional ‘male’. They are followed by a stranger as they walk down the street. It is possible that this is the ‘it’ and they are punished because they are dangerous and threaten the conventional male power.

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


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