FOLLOWED (2020) Review!

YouTube, love it or hate it, offers a plethora of viewing choices for almost any fancy. DIY? Plenty of tutorials for even the most mundane of tasks and for the not so mundane; ever wanted to get out of those pesky hand-cuffs that always seem to end up on your wrists? Ever wanted to circumvent that stubborn lock so you can easily gain access to someone else’s property? Just type what you’re looking for in the search bar and voila! Clips upon clips upon clips to assist you in saving money for car/home repairs or help you live that long sought after dream of becoming a master criminal! However, that’s not all it offers…

The video-sharing platform also provides a fountain of information pertaining to cinema, comic books, novels, cartoons, art of all kinds and a vast array of educational videos. One of the most popular user-generated content is that of the video blogger, or vlogger, a form of web television that combines embedded videos/links, text, images and other metadata (Wikipedia). Vlogs have become one of the most popular forms of digital entertainment with various degrees of quality in video, sound, subject material and creator(s)/narrators.

Followed, completed in 2018 but only now being released on VOD, is the first full length feature film for director Antoine Le and stars Matthew Solomon (Ballers), Tim Drier (American Crime Story), Sam Valentine (A.P. Bio), Caitlin Grace (The Paperclip), Kelsey Griswold (American Crime Story) and John Savage (The Deer Hunter) in a surprise cameo. Followed tells the story of Mike (Solomon), a YouTube-like social media influencer with dreams of hitting the big time with his channel, ‘Drop the Mic’. Mike’s goals, at least initially, seems to only entail fame and fortune and he is willing to use his friends in any way he deems necessary to achieve said goals, including, but not limited to, completely ignoring their pleas for him to cease and desist in offending the spirit world.

Mike is offered the chance for a sponsorship deal that’ll be worth his while monetarily to spend the night in the most haunted hotel in America, the Hotel Lennox. Along with his friends Christopher (Drier), Dani (Valentine) and Nic (Grace), Mike plans to spend three days and three nights in the hotel, investigating the hauntings. Told almost entirely through a sequence of vlogs, Followed warns us, before the story even begins to unfold, that what we are watching is a true story and could only, until recently, be found via the dark web. As we watch each sequence, we come to realize that we’re watching through the eyes, POV style, of an unknown, possibly sinister, individual.

Ignoring the warnings of Hotel Lennox historian and author, Wallace Fleischer (Savage), as well as a couple of fairly ominous omens of impending doom (what DID happen to that little boy Mike sees standing on the sidewalk corner?), Mike and company arrive at the hotel and begin setting up their investigation. What follows is a series of supernatural occurrences that only increase as it becomes apparent Mike has potentially unleashed something evil due to his disbelief and continuous mocking of the spirit world.

I’ll stop there because I don’t want to inadvertently give anything away. Experiencing any supernatural found footage film always works best when you have little to no prior knowledge of what’s to occur. I suffer from a severe case of daemonophobia (fear of demons) which only helps to enhance the total experience for me. Unfortunately though, to this day I still can’t watch Paranormal Activity and it’s sequels by myself and even when I have someone around to hold my hand, I’ll spend the next week looking over my shoulder during the night if I want a midnight snack! I thought I was going to get a similar effect from watching Followed, at night, by myself. However, that wasn’t the case.

That’s not to say Followed didn’t have any scares! On the contrary, it had several jump moments but ultimately, it wasn’t anything I haven’t seen before. The jump moments are more akin to those you might come across in the better-than-average haunted house. For instance, in one scene, a couple of our heroes are chased by someone wielding what sounds like a chainsaw and, during another, a character, shown from a distance, in silhouette, has something a bit wrong with his/her head. At no time did I feel a sense of nerve shattering dread and, in fact, felt like what was occurring to our main characters, quite literally, was exactly the type of scares I’d find at any of the better-than-average haunted house attractions across the country.

Every actor/actress gave solid performances during the film’s runtime, however Matthew Solomon’s performance as Mike ‘DroptheMic’ was exemplary, finding a perfect balance of charm and obnoxiousness as our host for his vlog. Director Le does an excellent job of giving enough time to each of the lead characters for us to care about what happens to them, something that can occasionally get overlooked in horror films. If you don’t care about the characters, then you can’t become emotionally invested in their plight, therefore negating any of the horror that they might be enduring. I look forward to seeing more of Antoine Le’s contributions to the horror genre, especially if he’s able to sharpen his talent to elicit a scare from his audience!

Ultimately, I felt that Followed was definitely on the right track with what it was trying to accomplish and for those of you just looking for some fun, jump type of scares, you’ll probably find a lot to love about the film. Personally, the scariest part of the film, the scene that filled me with the most dread, was that of tween vlogger Terrible Tyler (shudder!).

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