March 23, 2018 Followers (Movie Review)
Consider this: 2.3 billion people use social media every day, and the average person has 5.54 social media accounts. Sadly, 83% of stalking incidents start online. So, what will you do when your “friends” turn your future into terror? This is the premise at the heart of the Horror offering Followers, which arrives to select theatres (see list below), along with Digital HD and VOD, on Friday, March 23, 2018. Beware what you share!
Thirty-something Brooke Marie (Amanda Delaney: Pushing Tin 1999) is a fitness vlogger, brand ambassador, yoga enthusiast, and YouTube personality with a million-strong following. Thanks to the good ole internet, she has recently found love with a fellow YouTube personality and fitness guru, Caleb (Justin Maina: American Ninja Warrior series, The Vibe series). The pair of Floridians record nearly every moment of their relationship, from Caleb somersaulting into bed to wake Brooke, to Brooke seeking revenge with a bucket of ice water. So, what are two fit, young vloggers to do to celebrate their one-year anniversary? Well, camping, of course.
In a concurrent story arc, documentarians Nick (Nishant Gogna: Burn Notice series, The R.I.P. Files series) and Jake (Sean Michael Gloria: Scoops short 2010, 10 Seconds to Run 2016) are looking to shed some light on the brazen exposure inherent in social media, and how free we are with our personal information online. Together, the pair have selected a random, local YouTube celebrity to follow. Their plan: to take their online ‘Likes’ into the real-world and meet their star face-to-face, thereby proving that everything you give away online can lead to your real-time whereabouts.
Back at the campsite, Caleb and Brooke are without Wi-Fi, though with plenty of mosquitos to keep them company. They drink some champagne and wine to celebrate, before retiring to their tent for some more carnal libations. Somewhat predictably, Brooke awakens in the middle of the black night to footsteps around their camp. What exactly is lurking in the sweaty Florida woods, and does this perpetrator have Brooke in its sights?
Clocking in at 82 minutes in-length, Followers was directed by Ryan Justice (Scoops short 2010, WD ShortsHD TV Movie 2015) and is a feature-length debut for this talented young director. Billed as Horror and touted as being in the vein of 2016’s Friend Request, Followers is a curious, multi-faceted offering that never quite plays out as Horror and feels more like a solid social commentary. Which is to say that any of the attempted Horror elements here are cheesy, at best, and really mean very little to the overall tale, which is one of real-life, technologically-induced horrors.
Followers succeeds in its keen commentary, which is largely directed at our technological world, namely social media. Some of the film’s most benign lines offer up a sharp-witted view of our modern world, superbly simple epithets like “I know Brooke, I’ve seen her videos” and “You think that because you watched some videos that we post online that you know us?” Which is a good summary of Followers, as a whole: a clever and insightful view of social media from, ironically, behind yet another lens. There is literally a scene where Jake points out that, despite any horrors a viewer might witness, none of this will mean anything because it hasn’t personally happened to them. As a world of voyeurs, we have become numb to the ramifications of our own interactions: we simply continue to blindly follow an electronic trend that leaves us prostitutes for those very ‘Likes.’ In fact, we are so unwilling to step away from our cameras that, even in our death throes, we are filming ourselves.
Understanding the mindset of Followers is important, as the ensemble cast’s acting all serves to further the film’s underlying message; while the actual story here oft takes a back-seat. As Brooke and Caleb, Delany and Maina have a solid, believable chemistry on-screen: they appear to truly enjoy being in one another’s company and even their awkward, tension-filled moments feel sincere. Many films in the genre merely cast good-looking people to play their lead couple, with no regard whatsoever for their on-screen chemistry. Director Justice did his production a service by paying careful attention to this fact, and casting two personalities that jive in a realistic sense besides depicting their individual tropes well.
Gogna (Nick) and Gloria (Jake) carry the bulk of the acting talents, providing some comedic relief (Gogna) and intensity (Gloria), respectively. Gogna’s Nick bumbles through the woods, whining about missing calls from his mother and being terrified of spiders; he is the jovial half of the documentarian pair, a fully likeable character. Gloria’s Jake is the antithesis of his friend, an intensely creepy, perfect stalker-type who is all brooding darkness and shadows. It is this contrast that makes the pair the more intriguing characters here, and injects something truly enjoyable into the base-line plot of the film.
Of course, as previously stated, Followers is a conundrum of a film: it fails completely at offering up much in the way of Horror, and yet it succeeds smartly with its keen social commentary. It has a bizarre, twist ending that seems to inject a religious commentary into the mix, and the Kool-Aid that’s splashed around never really feels like blood. Yet, this is a smart little production that is worth seeing, if for the astute view of our insular, online world. Shot entirely on hand-held cameras, Followers says a lot with very little, and for this, you cannot help but find a certain level of appreciation for Director Justice’s talents. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Followers 3 of 5 stars. Is it technology, religion, or our own narcissism that makes us believe we are modern gods?