Written by: Matt Patti | June 25th, 2020
Followed (Antoine Le, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
Found-footage horror films were a popular trend in the 2000s, all starting from the one film that put the genre on the map, The Blair Witch Project. It was the inspiration for many other horror films centered on “lost” camera footage, including the Paranormal Activity franchise. Outside of that franchise, the found-footage genre has lost some steam in the 2010s, with fewer of these films being released and their popularity dwindling. In 2018, however, the genre received a boost with the found-footage/computer-screen drama-thriller hybrid Searching. The majority of Searching takes place on a computer screen, with a user clicking different videos and entering full screen to lead the audience into “found-footage” style scenes. I greatly enjoyed that film and it was one of my favorites of 2018. Now, two years later, Antoine Le’s Followed follows a similar path. The film takes place on a computer screen as a user watches online videos of a social-media influencer who explores haunted places.
Followed stars Matthew Solomon as Mike, the host of the “DropTheMike” online vlog, a series of videos that cover haunted places and evil spirits. Although Mike is passionate about his vlog, he does not personally believe in ghosts or spirits and simply makes the vlog to gain subscribers. He is offered a significant sponsorship in the form of $250 million if he can gain enough subscribers in a certain period of time. So, Mike asks his current subscribers what haunted place he should visit and take footage of. The overwhelming majority suggest the Lennox Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, one of the most haunted hotels in America in which over a hundred people have died over the years. Seeing an opportunity to gain more subscribers, Mike gathers a team to help him create a series of vlogs from the hotel. While he is at the hotel, horrifying events begin to take place and he and his friends soon begin to question their sanity. How far is Mike willing to go to achieve internet fame, and how much danger will he put himself and his friends in?
I’m not one that’s typically a fan of found-footage films, as a large amount of them tend to have very little actually happening over the course of the film, have annoying shaky-cam sequences, or are over-reliant on jump scares. Thankfully, Followed has none of those problems. Since its main characters are part of a video-production crew, there is no shaky-cam or subpar footage: everything seems well-produced, as an online video series should be. The film utilizes drone shots, cameras set in the corner of a room, and, yes, the typical handheld video cameras, but all of the footage comes out well. The combination of different shots keeps the film interesting and is far more effective than some found-footage films that feature only handheld camera shots. Also, since the characters are making a vlog series, the entire film is entertaining, even the first act in which not many scary events take place. Mike is an entertaining host and the show is filled with modern, millennial humor and references.
As a seasoned horror fan, I find that not many horror films actually achieve the goal of genuinely scaring me. I’m not talking about quick little jump scares that catch you off guard, I’m talking about having actual suspense and a creepy atmosphere that leads to horrifying consequences for our characters. Followed accomplishes this masterfully, with me on the edge of my seat and my heart pounding during long, grueling, suspenseful sequences. The mystery of the unknown rears its ugly head here, with many of the most terrifying scenes in the film being those where you catch a quick glimpse of something and you think you know what it is, but aren’t too sure, and other scenes in which you hear something but see nothing at all. The film has a bevy of tense sequences in which characters using handheld cameras slowly creep down a hallway, not to be ended by a cheap jump scare, but instead truly disturbing discoveries. It is one of few films I’ve seen that mixes the supernatural with actual human danger and does so very well. The film offers unexpected twists, personal drama among the characters and their pasts, chilling imagery, and a determined main character in Mike that will stop at nothing to get the fame and money he desires.
The few issues I have with the film are minor. Most of the performances in the film are top-notch, but one particular actor in the supporting cast seems a step below the rest and some of his line delivery is poor which leads to a bit of distraction. Also, the footage we’re viewing at times blurs out or goes fuzzy, which I know is probably an allude to supernatural forces affecting the technology, but it happens a few too many times and gets a bit annoying. Finally, the ending, while scary and shocking, is a bit confusing and doesn’t make complete sense.
Overall, Followed is a quality horror film that delivers great suspense that is sustained over long periods of time and genuinely terrifying scares. It also explores some interesting themes about fame, wealth, and what some people are willing to do to achieve it, even if it puts them in direct danger. Followed is exactly what a found-footage film should be and is one of the best I’ve seen in the genre.