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Why the ‘It’ that Follows Does So Slowly

October 30, 2016

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If you are anything like me then you have probably wondered why the killer in horror movies always has to walk so damn slow. I get that it makes him look all the more vicious. I understand the supposed badassery of going real slow when the razor’s-edge drama of the moment demands a reaction time that is real fast. The menace is recognized in a flash, but serial killers, undying monster knife slashers, horrors in dreams, and your run of the bloody mill phantasms never succumb to haste. They are always right on time despite the languor of their step, so grimly assured. Why not take one’s time?

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And that’s the point, the puncta: there’s no cause for pacing when punctuality is all that matters. Whether behind the dumpster or chatting with friends on the beach, when It comes for you, the film tells us our time is up by showing It taking its damn time. It is, after all, because It is damned that It can take its time, or so such films suggest.

A purely filmic definition of the monstrous, then, would have to do with temporality and pacing, the Monster being an aberration of both, and both of them becoming precious in the language of film, almost to the point of being made sacred in exchange for being so profaned.

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Films elevate notions of pacing and time because these represent cinema’s most important coordinates as a medium and as a technology. We only understand what we see in films by virtue of a miracle of speed, “miracle” here being a superstitious way of thinking about the film as a machine. The ‘It’ that follows in horror movies, as in the movie from which these images are taken–It Follows (2014)–builds terror upon the slow-stepping immanence of a Monster that stalks the protagonist. No matter where she goes, It follows. Strangely though, It always walks, and this becomes essential to the horror.

She may run or try to escape in a car, but It is just fine taking its own sweet time, as if on a leisurely stroll, as if saving that bus pass for later, as if the vector of speed were to suddenly disappear from the equation, creating that New Math associated with the horror genre… so that,

#666 If Sally and Monster were to leave point A at the exact same time, with Sally going at a rate of 35 mph and Monster walking at the rate of 3.4 mph, at what time of day will it be when Monster suddenly shows up, walking out of nowhere, and promptly does a gruesome number on Sally?

a) daytime  b) nighttime  c) Halloween thirty  d) her time  e) Now, which is always a punctuality that punctures, ever in relation to the next most certain point of mortality’s time, Death.

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We all know the answer to that word problem. We resolve it unfailingly every time we view a monster movie in which the monster moves scarcely at all, and yet remains ever punctual–and I mean this in all senses of the word, being on time, being a point in time where two mythological vectors meet, being a thing that points and punctures and cuts up–Time. And not just time, but also temporality’s surrogates, its most precious associates, poor mortals like Sally, like you, like me.

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