If you have just watched one of this year’s most intelligent horror films, “It Follows”, you may be itching to delve into its allegorical nooks and crannies with a wee bit of brainy analysis. If so, I highly recommend this eloquent article:
“It Follows” Taps Into Genre Tropes and Contemporary Fears to Devastating Effect from Michael Darer at The Wesleyan Argus.
I wouldn’t say I loved this film; however, I certainly appreciated it. Honestly, I enjoy my sexual-politic horror allegories to be more along the lines of Cronenburg’s Shivers, but the operative word there is: enjoy. Watching this film was like wearing a tight wool sweater and nothing else…in a sauna filled with disapproving relatives…while trying to give a heartfelt speech about the patriarchal symbolism of eggplants.
Yet, I kept thinking about it afterward (so basically, yeah, that’s a good film), and lacking any immediate fellow horror fans to geek out with, I went to the interwebs for comfort. I read many tidy little jabs at an analysis, but this article was my favorite. It got at the meat of the allegory, at least in the way it struck me as an innovative addition to the genre.
Here’s a snippet to illustrate:
Much has been made of the film’s allegorical interest, and appropriately so. While sexuality is not a new interest of the horror genre (the slasher films Mitchell often references have long held that if you have sex, you die), the current landscape of sexual discourse is ostensibly much different than it has been at any other point. Coming out around the same time as campus-rape documentary “The Hunting Ground,” “It Follows” is keenly aware of how its set-up emulates the anxiety and outrage that comes with any real acknowledgment of sexual violence. At various points in the film, conversations among characters (and even the shape of the Follower itself) make reference to the possibilities of violation and exploitation. The image of Jay tied in her underwear to a wheelchair that has played in nearly every trailer is a conscious gesture toward this as well.
But while critics have argued over whether the film is an allegory for sexual assault or sexually transmitted diseases (and there are images in the film that can be read variously as either), it’s more likely that Mitchell isn’t interested in restricting his film to the one-to-one relation that can make or break allegorical genre films. At its core, “It Follows” is an investigation of trauma, both large and small. On the macro level, it presents its audience with a protagonist who, after a disturbing sexual encounter, is followed by a manifestation of that encounter that only she can see. Jay’s fear, so often inexplicable to her friends, seems to cast the Follower as PTSD given bodily form.
While my love and fascination with horror knows no bounds (from “Ghoulies” to “Martyrs”: I’m there), it is the inherent power of this genre to make literal and tangible the deepest turmoil of our experience of human existence (have you seen The Babadook? read “Rosemary’s Baby“?) that keeps me coming back here to share with you. If you haven’t seen “It Follows” and you want to, I believe it’s available on Netflix and Redbox. Go see it, then come back and read this article.
I think this quote by Cronenberg can apply to the characters and audience of most any great work of horror:
“They’re going to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new experience,” Cronenberg once said of the residents in Shivers, though he could have just as easily been talking about his audience. “They’re not going to go willingly. But underneath, there is something else, and that’s what we see at the end of the film.”