Noted as the only found footage horror film playing at 2021 FrightFest, Followers combines comedy that pokes at the modern social influencer landscape and supernatural horror. As the found footage genre has excelled in a way to inject commentary and scares on a budget, the promised amalgamation spoke to the best elements of the genre.
What is It About?
“Jonty, an influencer with an ambition to reach over a million followers, will stop at nothing to become famous. When a demonic presence appears in his student house, Jonty decides to stream it and gain millions of followers. But at what cost?”
Seeped in the modern era of media, Followers captures (for better or worse) the frenzy and obsession of finding fame online. Complimented by the buzz of other influencers, the production bring a sense of community around following the exploits of wannabe ghost hunters. However, the production is less a celebration of the culture and more a reflection of both healthy and toxic interactions in the online sphere. Essentially, Followers greatest success lies in capturing the culture around the industry – particularly those who turn to unhealthy obsessions to push their name into the mouths of the masses – subscriptions being the only form of self-validation.
On the surface, Followers does not really hit those high notes of other found footage films – scares are sparse and light. However, the nuanced approach does make the few ghastly encounters really stand out and leave a lasting impression – ghost rave anyone? In addition, the conclusion has a bizarre twist accompanied with a healthy helping of blood, balancing out the otherwise slow pacing.
As the work is dialogue heavy and explores the relationship between four ‘friends’ (term is used loosely), the performances play a key role. Utterly obnoxious and predictable, the cast is easy to hate… However, their ability to convey the infuriating personas is undeniably successful. Notably, Harry Johnson turns Jonty into an influencer that you love to hate as an outsider, while having charm to see how he draws a crowd. Furthermore. Nina Wadia (EastEnders) hams it up in a way that perfectly fits the delusional self-help guru personality we more associate to frauds. Overall, the cast of the film really comes together to perfectly embrace the chaos and comedic wit of Marcus Harbern’s script.
What Does Not Work?
The lines between comedy and cringe are blurred, hampering many moments of humour as these seem unintentional. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish between instances of social commentary or poking fun at the modern, vapid social media influencer. This extends into the performances themselves with Jonty being a ‘insufferable bellend’ for most of the production – stunting any attempt at redemption. Essentially, the comedic aspects are not clearly defined and the line between laughing with or at is vague.
This unreliable tone is most notable in the conclusion of the film, an utterly whacky end that needs to be experienced. Taken as a comedy, the ending hits the mark, but in inspiring any fear, the film is a flop. Ultimately, the odd turn of events will land one of two ways for viewers, a hilarious send-off or a complete disappointment.
It is difficult to get past the obnoxious and shallow cast, even under consideration that the choices were deliberate. Furthermore, the expectation to appreciate the cast as more than fodder for an evil spirit can make the drama needlessly tiresome. However, well designed chilling moments perfectly hit the spooks you want in a basic found footage experience, and a comedic wit (when it does land) delivering witty humour needed for any modern horror comedy.
The value of the film will vary drastically among viewers, making it worth checking out to draw your own conclusions on whether the film is of value.
Sadly, producer/director Marcus Harbern passed away shortly after the film was completed. It is worth checking out his overview of his work, which you can watch here, to get a better idea of the creator’s vision for the film.
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Greetings, My name is Adam and I am from Canada.
My love for all things bizarre came at a young age, as boredom in a small town lead me down a rabbit hole of obscure film, music, tv and literature. I have carried these fascinations with and turned it into a passion for writing, sharing and discussing the various arts.
My area of expertise, if there was one, would be geared towards Asian horror with a particular interest in film and manga. However, if it is odd, disturbing or trashy I probably heard of it or can at least pretend I have in conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I always look to grow both as a writer and fan. I truly appreciate anyone willing to come along for the journey and share their passions in turn.