It Follows: Horror that Strays From the Cliche (Critical Essay 2)

It Follows, a horror film written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, tells the story of Jay Height, a young women from Detroit, as she is chased by a deadly entity after having sex with her boyfriend who essentially passes it down to her like a virus.

It Follows kidnapped

The demonic follower takes a zombified human form that blends into the environment they are in, which confuses Jay at first.

It Follows Demon.jpg

Along with her sister Kelly and neighborhood friends Paul and Greg, they band together to hunt down Hugh, who originally passed down the virus to her, in order to uncover the mystery behind it all. They discover that Hugh, actually named Jeff, conceived a fake identity and used Jay to rid himself of the monster. He insisted there was truly no way to overcome it other than simply passing it down to another unfortunate soul as he did to her. After a wave of hopelessness, the group plots to kill the entity by luring it to a swimming pool and electrocuting it.

This film continues to be one of my favorite films because of how well it is able to create a unique story while separating itself from the banal “rules” and plot mechanisms that build the typical, cliche horror flick. There are many righteous hints at feminist undertones that highlight the importance of sexual consent, as sex is both the hero and the villain throughout the film. The paranormal being in the film can be related to spreading an STD, which provides a new realistic level of insight to the audience. However, the plot of the film can almost seem hypocritical to it’s own feminist motives at times when, although consent is involved, Jay uses men for sex in order to rid herself of the being. At a low point in the movie Greg offers himself to Jay in order to finally grant her peace from the entity. This immediately leads to the demon chasing Greg down in what was ultimately a very unfortunate, violent scene of death. Though the hypocrisy in this scene may be true, in my personal opinion, this absolutely makes It Follows more compelling in its originality and in the conflict of the narrative.

It Follows does a fantastic job of calling attention to many modern social thoughts on sex. Having intercourse with another person is shown as a very natural process that the film obviously has no issue using as a recurring theme as both a positive and a negative. The thematic comfort around the topic and action of sex is implemented as both a means for Jay to ask for help from her friends as well as pass on the entity. The film suggests that it is not her fault for having sex with Jeff, even though the demon metaphorically acted as a consequence. For example, when she approaches her friends and family after her initial experience with the demon, they are not horrified at the fact she had sex nor do they blame her, but attempt to understand the situation and are there to help. In fact, at another point in the film Paul, who is obviously in love with Jay, also offers himself to her in order to free her of the torment. Although she refuses, Paul’s innocence and genuine fondness of Jay does not come off as him trying to take advantage of her. Actually, this gives Jay the chance to confront the conflict head-on and the opportunity to become the strong female lead that the film intended her to be. Moreover, this scene in particular is another example of the film’s use of consent and natural understanding of sex.

One of the most respectful and impactful aspects of It Follows is the way it stays true to it’s indie conception. This translates well with it’s distinctive thematic usage of sex as well as it’s amazing aesthetic and musical score. The look of the film resembles an environment similar to the 70’s and 80’s which can be compared to old classics like the original Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and, more recently Super 8 (2011) and Stranger Things (2016). What first gives this aesthetic away is the concept of Suburbia; the fact that most of the conflict in the film takes place within a typical, suburban neighborhood that involves a great deal of the community.

It Follows Suburb.png

Secondly, the film’s color palette is that of a vibrant, psychedelic 70’s lifestyle. What this film does so well is that it blends these exuberant colors with dark, bluish hues to generate a creepy undertone that implements the stylistic look of the horror genre.

It Follows Color Pallette

What is even more interesting is that the film resembles this style even though the set time is ambiguous. Lastly, the film’s electronic music score is so fantastic and different from a lot of different films. It is very unique in the way that it does not abuse the cliche high-pitched screech that always follows danger in typical horror films. The high-quality production of the score uses synths in different ways to construct emotion, efficiently matching with the energy that the color brings in the film as well as the horrifying nature and darkness that the film produces.

All of these aesthetic qualities create a positively different vibe that we rarely see in many films, and adds to the greatness that is It Follows.




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