(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
A monster that is passed on through sex. This is one of the strangest concepts which I have encountered in a horror film and, this is one of those times wherein I would love to see how the pitch of the movie went. How in the world do people think about things like this. In some reviews, it was said that the monster is representative of STD’s, an idea which I can buy into however, for this review, I would like to focus more on how the female gaze played a role in the film. That being said, I found It Follows (2014) by David Robert Mitchell to be one of the most conceptually interesting horror movies which I have watched. However, I did not enjoy it. While the storyline and all was great, I felt like the movie was too slowpaced and, was ruined by the actions of the main characters. The writers of the film made the main characters seem so stupid at times that half the movie, instead of being scared, I found myself actually rooting for them to die because of how idiotic their actions were.
It Follows (2014) tells the story of Jay, a regular college student who starts being haunted by “It” after she has sex with Hugh, a boy who she just started dating. After a while, she finds out that the monster follow certain rules: It will never stop following you, it cannot be seen by other people, it can take different forms and, it is only able to walk. The most interesting thing however, is that this monster is passed on through sex and has to kill the last person infected before it can go on to the next one. The movie then progresses from Jay trying to come to grips with what just happened and trying to run away to preserve her life to her actually taking charge and trying to beat the disease passed on to her unfairly. Jay, with the help of her friends really do then try to find a way to beat the monster but ultimately end up unsuccessful.
I found that, as I mentioned a while ago, a great concept for a film was wasted by bad writing in terms of characters and pacing. However, this doesn’t mean that the movie was all bad. Looking at the movie with Linda Williams’ article entitled When the Woman Looks in mind, a lot of insights can actually be taken from it. Williams suggests that in some horror films, the woman “exists only to be looked at.” She is under the male dominant gaze which “leaves no place for the woman’s own pleasure in seeing.” This objectification actually makes the movie. From the beginning, we see how Hugh only saw Jay as something to be used in order to move the curse from him to her. Women in horror films then are generally powerless and, this makes it difficult for women in the audience to identify with them. It Follows depicts this powerlessness very well. This is since, even though Jay does try to fight the monster, in the end, the curse was brought upon her by the male gaze. Because of the actions of a male, her life ended up changing in such a drastic way that she is forced to constantly be on the run, just waiting for her eventual death. We see however in the movie that in a way, the woman also has the power to mutilate and transform the vulnerable male. This is very much seen in how Jay also has the power to pass on the disease by having sex with other people. She is able to use males as much as they have used her through the same means.
As I mentioned before however, the movie was weak because of the characterizations. Jay was depicted as, for lack of a better word, stupid. She would decide to check and investigate places when clearly she would be putting herself in danger. In fact, her plan at the end was completely idiotic. She thought that it would be a good idea to step into a swimming pool and surround herself with plugged electronic appliances. In the end, the movie represented the typical female repressed by the male gaze but, goes past this and actually tries to empower the movie. However, because of the actions the female did in the movie, I feel like this try at empowerment failed and instead made her seem more helpless.
Source: Linda William, “When the Woman Looks.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).