Date of this Version
Critical Studies in Media Communication 34:3 (2017), pp. 234–249.
In the 2014 horror film It Follows, a teenage woman is terrorized by a fatal curse that passes from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. The subject of the curse is relentlessly pursued by vacant-minded assassins that take the form of friends, loved ones, and strangers. The film is set near the infamous dividing line of Detroit’s 8 Mile Road, between what remains of the suburban working-class and the sacrifice zone of post-industrial urban triage. I argue that It Follows confronts audiences with the spectral manifestation of precarity: the deliberate and unequal redistribution of human fragility to populations who are the most socially and economically vulnerable. First, the generic shift from a specific monster to an anonymous and relentless force redeploys horror convention to draw attention to the conditions that induce horror within the prevailing socioeconomic order. Second, the film renders such precarity visible by contrasting the mise-en-scène of the suburban enclave with zones of postindustrial ruin, the relative comfort of the former predicated on the vulnerability of the latter. The film maps a landscape of postindustrial ruin, enacting a visual and narrative critique of thanatopolitics, the biopolitical organization of death under late capitalism.