The opening scene of It Follows, like how Triangle started, will only make sense after the climax of the film is revealed. The film opens in a quiet suburban neighborhood, where a young woman clad in high heels appears to be running from someone. That “someone” is never revealed to the audience. A few minutes later, she is seen dead at a beach, with her body bent in horrific way. That opening sequence was a masterpiece because it gave off a chilling effect, despite the lack of action and dialogue. The silence in itself contributed to the suspense.
It Follows revolves around Jay (Maika Monroe) and how she got tangled into this chain of people being followed by a mysterious “it”. When her boyfriend, Hugh, drags her into this mess, he tells her that she will be followed by an entity that only she will be able to see. And at that exact moment, we see a woman slowly walking towards a frightened Jay. These entities could take the appearance of any person and will always be approaching the “infected” person at a slow and walking pace. Similar to Deadgirl, It Follows takes the element of sex as its main theme because the only way to stop being followed is by passing it on to another person, which was what Hugh did to Jay, through sexual intercourse.
I usually do not like movies that are slow-paced like The Innkeepers, but for It Follows, this seemed to work. The scene in particular that still sticks with me is the scene when Jay was in class when an old woman was walking towards her from outside the courtyard. Normally, monsters in horror films attack their victims by running towards them but in this film, the victims seem to be caught in a deer-in-headlights state, completely paralyzed by the entity approaching them.
Linda Williams’ article “When the Woman Looks” discussed this further in saying, “the woman’s look of horror paralyzes her in such a way that distance is overcome; the monster or the freak’s own spectacular appearance holds her originally active, curious look in a trance-like passivity that allows him to master her through her look”. In this way, Williams explained that the woman is punished for looking and even used the unmasking scene in The Phantom of the Opera as an example.
The article also talked about the difference between the male and female gaze where the male gaze “expressed conventional fear at that which differs from itself”. On the other hand, the female gaze also recognizes this fear but acknowledges that the freakishness of the monster is something that she could relate to with regards to because she herself is different. This is probably related to Robin Wood’s concept of “the Other” because as women, who are regarded as the “weaker sex”, they are the ones who are “Othered” or seen as less superior compared to the males.
In the film, we see Jay struggling at being looked at – by the neighborhood boys peeking at her through the fence, by her friends, especially Paul who is infatuated with her, and by the entities following her. In being looked at, Jay felt helpless and weak. But towards the end there is a shift because from being looked at, she is now the one looking – when she sought after the three men on the boat. In looking, the ones you are looking at are treated as the objects of your gaze and this objectification was evident in the film.
These entities are also focused in their task of stalking their prey. They are indifferent creatures who do not care about other people aside from the person they are following. They don’t even have speaking lines – they only take one calculated step at a time until they reach their victims and kill them. However, there is a sort of disconnect between seeing the creature and seeing what the creature is actually capable of doing. When we see the creature, he or she is just walking rather calmly towards Jay. But we also see that the creature is capable of throwing lawn chairs, smashing windows, and throwing electrical devices at Jay in the swimming pool. So I found the creature to be sort of inconsistent in that way.
I liked It Follows because it was an unconventional movie. Like all horror movies, there is a threat that is introduced. In this case, we witness the main character running for her life because she is being pursued. However, this threat is non-physical. From the point of view of Jay’s friends, they couldn’t see what Jay was running from but when we are exposed to Jay’s point of view, we clearly see that she is being followed by random people, insistent on pursuing and killing her.
Source: Linda Williams,“When the Woman Looks.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)