If there’s been one underlying fact when it comes to a variety of horror premises, be it spending a night in a haunted house or exploring an alien ship, it’s this: money is a motivator. As is the case of Followed, a found footage and livestream horror movie of sorts that brings this all too familiar premise to the digital age.
The story follows a vlogger and internet influencer named Mike (Matthew Solomon) who goes by the online persona of ‘DropTheMike’. He runs a horror themed video channel where he pulls pranks, visits the sites of crimes, hauntings, and atrocities, and plugs for subscribers. He receives an offer for hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship if he can get his subscriber count high enough, and in order to achieve this goal, Mike decides to spend Halloween at the Hotel Lennox. An infamous hotel that’s supposedly haunted and was the site of several mysterious murders, suicides, and disappearances. Along with his friends Chris (Tim Direr), Danni (Sam Valentine), and editor Nic (Caitlin Grace), they check in and search for supernatural happenings. Mike himself is a non-believer and just wants to make some quick cash, but he get more than he bargained for in this particular project…
As I said prior, Followed takes a rather familiar horror premise and gives it a shiny, internet era update. Livestreaming from a haunting and letting the numbers uptick. And the setting of the ‘Hotel Lennox’ is an interesting one, clearly drawing from the infamous Los Angeles’ Hotel Cecil and its own cases of disappearances and notorious serial killer occupants. Offering a myriad of spirits and supernatural terror to unleash upon Mike and his crew. Which offers an interesting mix, but at the same time kind of muddled the exact nature of the supernatural menacing them. At the same time, culminating in a bizarre and surreal explosion of ghostly calamity that would make Lucio Fulci proud.
The story follows some rather typical beats, so the scares didn’t feel too strong. Jump-scares and entities in the corners of recording, that sort of thing. One of the bigger strengths of the story is the examination of influencer culture by way of the lead character of Mike. When introduced, he’s an obnoxious ‘it’s just a prank, bro!’ internet personality. His friends more often than not begrudgingly work with him, and his editor is introduced flipping him off. The only person that he shows any real emotion and empathy with is to his fiancee, Jess (Kelsey Griswold). And even then, revealing that his main motivation being his inferiority complex to her. Wanting to make enough money after his previous failures as a filmmaker and he’s willing to degrade himself and others in order to do it. As terrifying as the spirits are, the lengths a desperate man is willing to go for money, stability, and peace of mind is also to be recognized.
The cast are pretty decent, though Mike’s obnoxious vlogger persona is all too grating and it can be hard to differentiate between personas and genuine fear. The special FX are mostly digital and screen based, considering the found footage and internet angle of the story. Oftentimes involving the modern classic ‘glitch ghosts’ that distort the screen and blink in and out. A good touch.
So, while the horror aspect of Followed doesn’t offer too much in the way of new scares or plot, it’s still a solid found footage movie for 2020. So, if you want to see the last broadcast of DropTheMike, give it a watch either online or your local drive-in.
Followed is in Drive-In Theaters currently as of June 19th, 2020.