Dark Netflix Mind-bending Chiller Is A Horror Throwback In The Best Way

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

In 2014, a horror film premiered, terrifying audiences and harkening wonderfully back to the classic scary movies of yore. It Follows is currently streaming on Netflix, and this masterpiece of psychological dread—at once innovative and enjoyable classical—draws on the tried-and-true genre conceit of suffusing teenage sexuality with terror.

The film, directed by the talented David Robert Mitchell, relates the horrible saga of Jay Height (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe), a young woman victimized by a relentless supernatural entity after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter.

It Follows Scary Premise

The narrative unfolds amidst the outwardly tranquil suburbs of Detroit, a setting saturated with aesthetic echos of the past—of the original Friday the 13th, say, or Halloween, even, more generally, a kind of constant Autumn occurring in some archetypal, teenage Americana past. It is here that a malevolent curse shatters any veneer of the piece. 

It Follows begins with Jay sharing what would appear to be a benign and intimate encounter with her boyfriend, Hugh, in a car (ah, high school!). Hugh, however, drugs and bounds Jay once they finish lovemakin’; he then shares his terrible secret: Hugh has passed a terrible curse onto Jay through their intimacy.

This curse takes the form of a slow but persistent entity that will follow her until it claims her life or she passes the curse to another unfortunate person. 

Terrifying Elements

The film’s most memorable element is how this malevolent entity presents itself. It can take the form of anyone and only someone unfortunate enough to carry the curse can see it as it steadily walks ever nearer.

These incessant antagonists in It Follows always vary and are often naked, implying they represent previous victims of the curse in the moment of coitus.

Their visages include an old woman stalking Jay at her school, a man breaking into her home, and a nightmarish vision of a tall, naked man on the roof of a house. 

Each appearance, more disturbing than the last, heightens the sense of paranoia and fear.

It Will Never Stop

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As these beings pursue Jay, she and her friends seek answers, tracing Hugh’s real identity to a certain Jeff Redmond. Upon finding Jeff, he shares all he knows with the teens about his previous, tormented experience with the entity. Above all, Jeff stresses the curse’s inexorable nature—it will never stop; it follows. 

Understandably desperate, Jay endeavors to distance herself from her horrible predicement and seeks refuge at a lake house with her friends. Of course, the entity’s persistence eventuates more terror—alongside a violent confrontation that leaves Jay both injured and more desperate than ever to discover a way to escape the curse’s grasp. 

A Creeping Terror

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Throughout, the movie masterfully blends the familiar mundanity of teenage life with the creeping terror of the supernatural, amounting to a story rife with suspense, dread, and the frantic human struggle to escape inescapable.

If only by way of its innovative premise, It Follows admirably examines themes of sexuality, mortality, and the inexorable nature of fate. 

Its presence on the world’s biggest streaming service is but the latest stop in the film’s long life. After premiering to great fanfare at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, the title quickly caught the eye of Radius-TWC, who shepherded the project to global disruption.

It would end up grossing $23.3 million against a modest budget of $1.3 million—quite a return indeed. 

Critical Reception For It Follows

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Critics responded warmly to It Follows, lauding its inventive concept and Monroe’s compelling performance in equal measure. Experts rightly recognized it as a cult phenomenon to be—a title with franchise potential that would go down as a horror classic.

The film’s success paved the way for the announcement of a sequel, They Follow, a title promising to dive deeper into the eerie lore, that should begin filming later this year. Exemplifying its critical acclaim, the movie holds an impressive 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes

The film’s director, Mitchell, took inspiration for his spine-tingling work from his childhood nightmares—and it shows. The work engagingly accesses primal anxieties associated with intimacy, mortality, and our deep-seated fear of curses. Additionally and richly, It Follows’ Detroit backdrop benefits equally from Autumn foliage and rust-belt urban decay, all captured memorably through wide-angle lenses.

Streaming It Follows

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The project’s score, created by Rich Vreeland, who usually goes by the moniker Diasterpeace, additionally envelops the film in a cloak of dread.

Beyond revitalizing the horror genre, the movie’s subject matter also sparked deep analytical discourse, with critics dissecting its themes ranging from the implications of sexually transmitted diseases to the broader metaphors of societal and economic anxieties. 

For a standout piece in the horror genre—a chilling reminder of the genre’s power to reflect our most primal fears—give It Follows a stream.