Why the Monster in "It Follows" is Creepier Than Your Common Hollywood 'Boogie-Man'
“It Follows” is a 2015 horror film by David Robert Mitchell. It is advertised as a mystery/thriller film, but I argue that this beautiful creation is whole-heartedly a horror film, for one specific reason: the ‘monster’. Yes the monster is not some gruesome creature with fangs and devilish wings. But it is a creature with one purpose: to kill you. The process in which it seeks, hunts and captures, is where the talents of Mitchell is epitomised. He has created a horror film that relates to the horrors experienced by sexual predator survivors, and in a sense, that is more bone-chilling than the common ‘boogie-man’.
Jay is an ordinary blonde girl with an ordinary life. After a traumatic sexual encounter, she is cursed to have ‘It’ follow her and eventually kill her. Unless she passes on the curse through sex, this creature will follow her for the rest of her life. At first, the audience is confused, the creature presents itself each time as a somewhat ordinary looking person and can only move at walking pace. How threatening could that be? It turns out, very. As it looks like anyone, the monster could be anyone. Since it is a slow creature, you are left waiting around for the rest of your life. This slow dissent into madness is captured beautifully by actress Maika Monroe, the face of Jay. Despite the recognition Monroe deserves for her performance of Jay, I want to focus on the relationship between the monster and the audience. Cinematic techniques of the film were the centre of why this film made us constantly feel so uneasy. The eery music paired with our growing, itching anticipation adds weight to the trauma involved with this film. Not only does Jay go mad, but we do too.
"It" as the Dead Girl From the Beginning
One of the most direct examples of this relationship between the monster and the audience can be viewed in the beach scene. As ‘It’ dramatically introduces itself causing quite a commotion, Jay is seen running and eventually driving away, leaving her friends stranded by the house. As her back is turned while reaching the car, the creature walks along the unsuspecting running friends. Only Jay and the audience can see the creature. It constantly changes form in this scene. In the space of a few seconds we see the creature take the form of a teenage girl, the same girl that was killed at the start of the film. Jay does not know this person and actually doesn’t even see her as her back is turned. This distinct decision to make the creature look like the girl that frightened us in the beginning is a severe stab at the audience. We too are now relating to the monster, a feeling that is not at all warm. Mitchell is very clever in using this simple technique. There is no jump scare. No main character relation. The girl is recognised after a few seconds, and then the car starts pulling away, enough time to get the audiences ultimate attention.
So now the we have established the film can get our attention with very simple but clever visuals, why does this show the severity and ‘scariness’ of ‘It’? When we think of horror movies, we first ask “okay so what’s the monster?”. Because of the Hollywood advertising of horror films, audience members find it difficult to come away from the expectations of a ‘monster reveal’. The first time Jay sees the monster, and we don’t, is when she is in the pool, while her friend wait around the edges ready to electrocute the creature. Jay screams, horrified at what she sees. The audience’s ears prick up at this point, as we think the monster has taken the form of some gruesome, horrifying creature. This is when you single out the Hollywood audience with the Horror geeks. The monster is revealed as an ordinary, middle-aged man. As some audience members groan in disappointment, others realise this has to be deliberate, it has to mean something deeper. Guess what? It does.
Throughout the film there are photographs around the house; Jay’s mirror, tables, the walls of the living room. If you look closely, this same man is viewed in a few. As Jay’s father is absent from the film and her mother is constantly seen drinking alcohol, this man the creature was in the form of, could have most probably been her deceased Dad. This is reinforced as she refuse to tell her sister what form the creature has taken. This is a critical psychological stab towards Jay. Just how it was a stab to the audience in the beach scene. The horror surrounding ‘It’ is it’s ability to mean more than it is. As this creature came from a traumatic sexual experience, ‘It’ symbolises everything wrong or scary in your life, following you around like a lagging limb. The audience doesn’t comprehend straight away the disturbing nature of this. We are just left with an uneasy feeling that chills our bones to the core. When you go to bed checking all closets and behind doors — which is what this film made me do — you’ve just watched a horror my friend. And a good one.