This week Nikki and Kate watched It Follows and questioned the actual functionality of the clam phone…sea-reader? Shell phone? Clamdle? Okay we’ll stop. 

You can check out all of the past episodes as well as our episode notes on the Just Ghoul With It website at www.justghoulwithitpod.com If you like what we’re doing, rate and review us on Apple Podcasts- it really does help! 

The music in this episode is Good Night by Private Hell Productions and was used with permission. The entire album, plus other works, can be found on the Private Hell Productions youtube channel. 

It Follows is rated R for graphic nudity, disturbing violent content, language, and sexual content. 

Content warnings are as follows: bodily mutilation, broken bones, kidnapping, death of a minor, stalking, jumpscares, hospital scene, gaslighting, anxiety attacks, sexual assault, sexual content, incest, someone struggling to breathe, drowning, gun violence, blood, car crash, bugs

 

Selection of Kate’s notes:

What is a trope?

  • A recognizable storytelling device or convention. They offer a shortcut for viewers, assuming an essential shared history. 
  • They’re not the same thing as cliches- a cliche has a negative connotation whereas a trope is neutral. 
  • Tropes are not motifs. Themes and motifs are within one work, while tropes stretch across time and mediums. 
  • An example of one is bury your gays. It’s the convention where queer characters are more expendable than hetero characters and die. There are histories to tropes- where it started isn’t always where it landed. 

 

Tropes:

Cat Scare – red ball hitting window

Creepy Child – the child crawling into the garage is voyeuristic neighbor kid

Death by sex – duh (like explained in Scream) ((maybe get this audio clip?))

Disposable sex worker – big sad

Does not like shoes – lollolol

Door handle scare – Yara and tall man

Drone of dread – the score

The end…or is it – the ending

Foreshadowing – old maid, no winners only losers 

Monochrome casting – zero people of color

Motifs – water

Plucky Comic Relief – Yara (though I heart her, she could be removed and nothing would change)

Rewatch bonus – spotting it in the background, like the ghosts in Haunting of Hill House and Haunting of Bly Manor

Sex is evil – literally the whole thing

Trauma swing – after she is pursued in her home by the Entity, she bikes on a children’s bike to a playground and swings for a bit until her friends find her

  • I read it as a wistful attempt to reclaim a childhood and innocence lost

 

Cultural anxiety and horror films

  • Anxiety vs fear
  • Jason Wallin, a media and culture expert in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education. “It’s not about the scare tactics so much as the unconscious fears. Horror is a speculation on a potential future and it tries to elevate those anxieties to conscious thought.” He said contemporary horror movies transform highly relevant concerns about invasive and isolating technology, the wholesale destruction of nature, incurable diseases and fear of difference into the stuff of new nightmares. And though most people don’t believe the streets will be overtaken by the undead with an appetite for human flesh, the horror genre forces both characters and viewers to confront their fears, which in the 21st century often revolve around the fragility of human society (Barner, 2017).
  • Poltergeist and fear of technology 
  • “Where did the curse come from? How was it created? Significantly, it doesn’t have a name, nor does it earn one. This signifies an important distinction between fear and anxiety—fear springs from something that can be named, and potentially known and explained, and anxiety is created from the uncanny, something that cannot be named or pinned down” (Hayward)

 

The Entity as representative of economic collapse, economic anxiety, stilted futures for millennials

  • “The curse in It Follows is representative of the curse of economic collapse that may presumably follow younger generations indefinitely into their futures. The passing along of the curse mimics the inevitability of participation in an already corrupt system: characters have the ultimatum to be a part of the problem, or die” (Hayward).



No people of color in the film

  • “Jay’s situation in It Follows is more representative of post-recession focus on the negative effects on mostly white, middle class people and their increasingly precarious economic stability, the same group of people that media focused on during the recession” (Hayward).

 

Outside of a recognizable timeline (Dowd)

  • Clam phone, ahhhh the clam phone (a shell phone, if you will)
  • Corded phones, tv sets from at least 3 decades before, with movies from decades before those
  • The prevalence of old station wagons (but the presence of slightly more modern cars)
  • WHY- to prevent it from being specifically date- like when you see old movies with flip phones
  • WHY- to give it a dreamlike quality 
    • “It more has to do with my general belief that film doesn’t have to operate within the world we live in. The ground rules of the film world don’t have to be how we understand the world. And something doesn’t have to be fantasy to take some elements from fantasy. Movies are very much dreams, in a way, and you can use that to your advantage.”

 

Similarities to Halloween

  • The strolling down the street with the Entity behind them like Michael
  • The classroom scene

 

Why the 80s? (screen rant article)

  • Nostalgia for movies of the period
  • Time of serial killers (Richard Ramirez the Night Stalker and Jeffrey Dahmer)
  • direct challenge to tropes

 

Establishing atmospheric horror (Dowd)

  • The importance of “waiting,” and building dread -> the anxiety of waiting

 

5 inspirations (indie wire article)

  • Creature from the Black Lagoon
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Carpenter broadly, specifically The Thing From Another World
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Paris, Texas

 

The Entity

  • The monster is a societal ill
    • Blight, economic anxiety reaching kids
    • Scarcity mindset, the isolation and competition that capitalism creates
    • “This shift centers on the decay of the post-recession city and its outlying suburban spaces as a symbol of cultural anxiety surrounding the destabilization of capitalist ideals.” (Hayward) analyzing post-recession films to look at cultural anxiety
  • The monster as an STD
    • This only goes so far, Mitchell himself says that it’s *a reading,* but not *the reading* 
    • You don’t get rid of an std by passing it along to someone else

 

Motifs

  • Isolation- central to horror
    • Connect to wild idea of capitalism and individualism 
  • End of innocence/childhood
    • Realization of mortality
    • She only wears dresses when she is ostensibly curse-free
    • Inevitability of death (the entity can not be stopped, can sometimes be delayed)
      • We’ve gotten really good at delaying death (also called prolonging life), but it’s still a societal constant, that every life will end
  • Capitalistic scarcity mindset
    • Forced to engage in harmful societal practices, kill or be killed 

 

Sources 

Armitage, Matt. (2020, July 3). Horror in the 2010s – Part 1: The House that Blum Built? Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/07/03/horror-in-the-2010s-part-1-the-house-that-blum-built/

Armitage, Matt. (2020, July 8). Horror in the 2010s – Part 2: The Return of the King. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/07/18/horror-in-the-2010s-part-2-the-return-of-the-king/

Bachman, Mara. 2020, July 19. Why So Many Modern Horror Movies Are Set In The 1980s. Screen Rant. https://screenrant.com/modern-horror-movies-1980s-setting-reason/

Barnes, Kateryna. 2017, October 30. Monsters in modern horror culture reflect social anxieties. Folio. https://www.ualberta.ca/folio/2017/10/monsters-in-modern-horror-culture-reflect-social-anxieties.html

Callahan, Corey. (2020, May 22). The 1960s: The Horror Film in Flux. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/05/22/the-1960s-the-horror-film-in-flux/

Cosens, Tom. (2019, March 9). Horror Through The Ages Part 1: The Beginning. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2019/03/09/horror-through-the-ages-part-1-the-beginning/

Cosens, Tom. (2019, Mark 15). Horror in the 1930s: The Golden Decade. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2019/03/15/horror-through-the-ages-part-2-a-brief-history-of-the-1930s/

Dowd, A. A. 2015, March 12. David Robert Mitchell on his striking new horror film, It Follows. AV Club. https://film.avclub.com/david-robert-mitchell-on-his-striking-new-horror-film-1798277440

Frias, Varden. (2020, May 8). The Misunderstood Monster of the 1940s. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/05/08/misunderstood-monster-1940s/

Greene, Vincent. (2020, June 5). 1980s Horror: The Pulse-Racing, Panic-Inducing, Pinnacle of the Genre. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/06/05/1980s-horror-pinnacle/

Grevas, Andrew. (2020, June 12). Horror In The ’90s: A Decade Of Reflection & Change. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/06/12/horror-in-the-90s-a-decade-of-reflection-change/

Hayward, Joni. (2017). No Safe Space: Economic Anxiety and Post-Recession Spaces in Horror Films. Frame Cinema Journal. https://framescinemajournal.com/article/no-safe-space-economic-anxiety-and-post-recession-spaces-in-horror-films/

McGrail, Lauren. (n.d.) A History of Horror in Cinema. Or, a Reflection of Society’s Fears Over the Decades. Lights Film School. https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/history-horror-movies-genre-agf

Romano, Aja. (2016, December 21). Horror movies reflect cultural fears. In 2016, Americans feared invasion. Vox. https://www.vox.com/culture/2016/12/21/13737476/horror-movies-2016-invasion 

Saunders, Rebecca. (2020, June 26). The Fraught Aughts: Industrial Thresholds and New Gore in 2000s Horror. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/06/26/industrial-thresholds-and-new-gore-in-2000s-horror/

Saunders, Rebecca. (2020, May 15). Nuclear and Social Anxiety in 1950s Horror Films. Horror Obsessive. https://horrorobsessive.com/2020/05/15/anxiety-in-1950s-horror-films/

Taylor, Drew. (2015, March 12). Director David Robert Mitchell Reveals The 5 Biggest Influences On ‘It Follows.’ Indie Wire. https://www.indiewire.com/2015/03/director-david-robert-mitchell-reveals-the-5-biggest-influences-on-it-follows-266346/