Once in a while, what I expect to be a guilty pleasure turns out simply to be a pleasure, no qualifier attached. Such is the case with Followed, a movie which on paper looks to be entirely forgettable. A found-footage film where vlogger DropTheMike – yes, that’s his handle – and his friends are undertaking a haunted-hotel shoot at the Lennox (more than loosely based on real-life Cecil)? It’s a conceit that screams C-movie, yet which here is utilized so well, so effectively, and so creepily, that it deserves every seventy-one fresh percent it received at Rotten Tomatoes.
The story is tight and doesn’t go much deeper than the main conceit. DropTheMike (Matthew Solomon) is eying a $250,000 sponsor contract by trying to gain 50,000 new subscribers over a Halloween weekend. The infamous Lennox is the perfect spot to get that type of exposure, with its tragedies, murders, and occult occurrences. Putting something together to scare up followers should be easy enough.
That the hotel actually turns out to be haunted should surprise no one.
Generally, for a found-footage film to work, it helps to have likable protagonists, and to have likable protagonists, you need talented actors. Both are woefully rare in this sub-genre, but thankfully Followed managed to pack both in. DropTheMike might share excitability traits with real-life
personalities like Logan Paul, but he is also likable. The vlogger has his faults, and as things start to fall apart, his enthusiasm increasingly puts his four-person team in danger. Yet – thanks to the jovial performance by Solomon – it feels like his actions come from a genuinely good place. His likability is the only reason his ever-suffering crew tries to keep up with him, but as bad things start going down, their patience wears thin.
And things do go weird. Door knocks can be heard without anyone being at the door; specters appear in elevators; a door on one floor leads DropTheMike into a room on another. That’s admittedly fairly garden variety haunted-house stuff, but director Antoine Le executes it well. A door (there are a lot of doors) that opens by itself is done at just the right speed to feel appropriately tense. The sound design puts little details all around, and you are never entirely sure what is going on. Followed is presumably a low-budget movie, and the producers wisely got the basic scares well, instead of relying on half-baked CGI. This is a movie that crawls in under your skin as opposed to jumping out at you.
I commend that understated feel of the film. Followed will keep you guessing until the credits roll: We see the videos played on the unseen character’s computer, who seemingly could be DropTheMike. Surely it’s not that simple, though? The movie is filmed from a first-person perspective for a reason, after all.
Color me surprised how much I like this movie. Even good found-footage films are an acquired taste, but I see no reason why Followed didn’t make much of a mainstream impact, while Paranormal Activity became a hit.
I give Followed a way higher recommendation than I ever had expected to give – what a great found-footage film.
Letterboxd summary: Social media influencer, 'DropTheMike', seeks thrills and stardom in the most horrific places. When he’s offered the possibility of a lucrative sponsorship, he takes his online channel to one of the most haunted hotels in America. What begins as a fun challenge accompanied by friends descends into a personal hell, begging the timely question: how far would you go to pursue internet fame?
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||4/6|