The 2014 movie “It Follows,” trails behind Detroit-suburb college student, Jay, played by Maika Monroe, as she runs from a silent yet ruthless force that starts following her after a sexual tryst with her date, Hugh.
The Initial Attack
Post-car sex, Jay lies on her stomach across the backseat and dangles her arm out of the car, playing with a little bundle of flowers. She talks to Hugh as he seems to shift things in the trunk, telling him how she used to picture being an adult. She wonders now that they’re grown and have the freedom to date and drive around with friends, where do they go? Hugh returns to the backseat, crawling on Jay’s back and kissing her skin before he abruptly and violently covers her mouth with a cloth.
Jay struggles to break free but ultimately succumbs to what seems to be chloroform, her body going limp as her hand falls out of the car, brushing again against the cluster of white flowers.
As Jay stirs awake, she finds that Hugh has tied her to a wheelchair in a parking garage ruins, in an attempt to prove the horrifying truth of the one and only important thing in her life now. Survival.
Hugh tells her about the supernatural killer he passed on to her, and for the first time in the film, we see exactly what it looks like. It is a naked woman, slowly walking towards her. Jay has to pass the affliction onto someone else through sex. If she doesn’t, she risks a brutal and mutilating death by the silent yet ruthless killer.
Hugh then pushes Jay around in the wheelchair, running away from the entity. The angle of the camera creates a harsh transition into disorientation, as it feels we are being pushed away from the force, though not knowing how close they are. This disorientation, then, increases the already existent suspense and lack of orientation, this time within the garage.
It’s A Disorienting Film
The inconceivable horror of never being able to stop moving without an invisible (to everyone but you) force violently murdering you is a scary enough situation to imagine without the added element of disorientation within the film itself.
Much like Stanley Kubrick’s strategy in The Shining, the director of “It Follows,” David Robert Mitchell, chooses to focus on the smallest of unnerving details perhaps only noticed by the subconscious. He does this in order to create uneasiness and discomfort without the viewer even being aware of the tactic. In “It Follows’’” case, Mitchell uses props, costumery, and setting in order to make it impossible for the viewers to determine the time period, location, and season.
What Year Is It? The Props Aren’t Telling Us
In one of the first scenes of the film, Jay’s sister Kelly, and her friends Paul and Yara sit on a couch watching the 1954 sci-fi movie “Killers from Space” on a bulky late eighties-early nineties television. Yara, however, appears to be glued to what looks like a smartphone, that is, until the camera cuts over her shoulder and we see her reading an eBook on a clamshell that resembles a 1950s makeup compact.
While this could indicate a futuristic plot, in every scene where the group of friends watches tv, they watch on a clunky tv from the 1980s-1990s and watch black and white movies or vintage cartoons. While all of the decor and appliances in Jay’s home place us in the 1970s (or earlier, also considering the black and white family photos), we then see a scene in which the neighbor across the street opens their stainless-steel fridge which places us in the 2000s. The purely corded phones throughout the movie and the vintage playing cards also show a new time period.
In the infamous car sex scene, the camera pans out and shows the car they are in, which looks like a brand new 1970s Cadillac (even though the main characters drive around in a 1980s Station Wagon and the background cars are from the 1990s.) Inside the Cadillac, we see Jay in her pink, high-waisted, frilly lingerie, a look incredibly reminiscent of the 1950s.
What Season Is It Set In?
In addition to the lack of a time period, we are also unaware of the season. When we first see Jay swimming in her backyard pool, we assume warm weather, until we later witness characters wearing coats indicating colder temperatures as they walk by a “Winter Deals” sign outside an auto parts garage. However, a couple of scenes later the characters sit outside wearing shorts.
The following day, Jay and her sister Kelly take a walk around the neighborhood, with Jay wearing a sweater and coat, even though the landscape looks like summer, with full green trees and grass. In one of the following scenes, however, the leaves have all turned orange and red and have started to fall.
No one ever mentions the weather, season, or month, and once again, this unnerving detail appears completely ordinary to the main characters. While one could argue warmer days exist in the fall, the main characters live in Michigan, not a warmer location like California. Additionally, we know that the whole film takes place over a handful of days, and the landscape would not change that abruptly in such a short amount of time.
Mitchell more likely intentionally created this confusion to throw off the viewer and make them as uncomfortable as possible, without them even knowing it.
Where’s the Technology?
We also don’t see much technology at all until the climax of the movie. Up until the pool scene, we don’t see any electronics in Jay’s classroom or in her hospital room. And when we finally do see technology during the pool scene, most things look older, including a typewriter and vintage-looking appliances.
While you may not notice all of the aforementioned details on your first watch, give it a second or third view and you will begin to understand just why you may have felt so uncomfortable upon first and every view thereafter. Although there are a few jumpscares, the unconventional horror film does not rely on them but instead adds to horror movie tropes to create an entirely new layer of suspense, one that lies only in your subconscious.