These are scary times that we live in.
It Follows is one of the most interesting and affecting horror films of the last 10 years. Its simple concept instils a creeping terror that cuts to the very core of human vulnerability.
A supernatural force follows a young girl relentlessly after she has sex. An entity that just follows her. That’s it. It can take any form. It can look like anyone. But, it will always follow you. You can never rest or it will get you.
Horror films reflect the terrors within society. In this post, through analysis of just one scene, we will show you how the simple premise of It Follows highlights the encroaching, silent terror that affects women on a daily basis.
The opening scene of the film gives us a glimpse into the paranoid terror that comes from this simple premise.
In this scene, the camera follows an unknown girl as she runs from her house in some distress. She stands in the road, looking directly at the camera. It is early evening and everything is still clearly visible.
A neighbour asks if she needs any help. She declines. All the while not taking her eye off the camera. A soft synth bass ripples in the background.
Her dad comes out and asks her what she is doing. She is called Annie. Annie runs around the camera and behind it, before heading back into the house. She says she is fine, but she is clearly terrified.
She goes into the house, and then re-emerges and drives off in her car as the synth soundtrack kicks in. She is fleeing and the chase is on.
She arrives at a beach. It is black night now, and the beach, and herself, are lit by the headlights of her car. Her phone is ringing.
She answers it and apologises to her Dad for being a shit to him sometimes. She tells him that she loves him and her mom. She is making peace, as if she already knows her fate. Two cracks on the soundtrack and a wide shot of the car with a dark wood behind it. Something is coming, but we can’t see it.
We cut to an image of Annie the next morning, lying dead on the beach. One of her feet is missing, and her leg is broken at a right angle.
Annie’s heartbreaking apology to her father on the phone, and her inability to admit to him that something was wrong at the beginning, echo the sentiments many women tell themselves to rationalise daily harassment. It is almost as if she is ashamed. She is being pursued by something that only she can see, and she cannot tell her own father about it due to shame and the urge to protect him from the truth. These are all familiar realities for any woman living in a society that perpetuates and celebrates the male voyeuristic gaze over the safety and protection of women. The voluntary secrecy surrounding this invisible entity that stalks Annie, by herself and everyone around her, is a result of a society that oft pretends that this entity isn’t real.
This opening sequence sets the tone, premise and central themes of the film straight away. The driving relentlessness of the Disasterpiece soundtrack, coupled with the encroaching camera that is moving slowly and steadily, unsettles the viewer from the off. Furthermore, the wide angle shots that could be hiding anything in them, the strange behaviour of Annie in a seemingly safe situation, and the fact that we at no point see any real threat onscreen, places the viewer in an uncanny suburban landscape. They know that something is off, but they can’t quite put their finger on it.
That feeling that something is off, that encroaching, invisible, silent dread, is one that women know all too well. Annie is in broad daylight in her own neighbourhood, yet she is not safe. Her father comes out and asks if everything is okay, and even he is ignorant to what is pursuing her, day in, day out.
The viewer, like her father and her neighbour, becomes complicit in the terror, invisible to the violence that faces women on a day-today basis, remaining as a silent voyeur watching and asking “what’s wrong?” when the answer is so inherently obvious.
I started writing this article as an exploration of how the film deconstructs anxieties over sexuality, sexual health, virginity, loss of innocence and mental health through its simple premise. Though these themes are certainly tied in to the film, recent events made me quickly realise that I was part of the problem. I was as wilfully ignorant as any of the supporting characters, blind to the actual reality of the film’s narrative, adding my own spin on proceedings in a predictably glib and naïve way.
“This thing, it’s gonna follow you. It can look like someone you know, or it can be a stranger in a crowd whatever helps it get close to you. It can look like anyone, but there’s only one of it.”
The entity in It Follows is an invisible monster out there that I will never have to be afraid of because it doesn’t follow me, it follows women. It’s not even invisible. This is not an imagined fear that one can try and contextualise with some academic pretence. It’s a real justified fear, the fear of men. I can only try and not be so wilfully blind to it anymore.
RIP Sarah Everard.