Firstly, I am not a ‘found footage’ genre liker as many think the audience is stupid. The V/H/S anthology series beginning in 2012 was it for me that seeing Followers (2021) was a different experience. Writer-Director Marcus Harben brings the story of a discredited social media influencer named Jonty (Harry Jarvis) who moves into a new house after starting university. When he and his housemates learn their new home is haunted, they use the events to restart Jonty’s fading fame with deadly consequences.
The housemates are all of the various types almost updates of the classic Slasher film kill fodder Jonty (Harry Jarvis), a “Justin Bieber” with a posh accent and tilted ball cap. A scheming pretty boy that the internet loves and that most guys would love to punch, in fact Pete (Daniel Cahill) is the working class, ill-tempered ‘Lager Lad’ who almost does it. Toss in Amber (Erin Austen) as the pretty girl everyone wants who dresses like a tight-fitting final girl and Zauna (Loreece Harrison) is the tech who keeps it all rolling. Add in the mix Becky (Nina Wadia) as an older internet personality who runs a spiritual help channel with few subscribers and is trying to ride the coattails of new fame.
This is a film in which jump scares are figures appearing on computer screens while the sudden ringing of cell phones shocks audiences. The mysterious distant sounds of rave music fill the air with dread in the hearts of these characters.
Followers (2021) moves along at a nice clip with subplots and interjections from followers as the fame of the haunted house grows. Social commentary abounds which for me was the best moment of the film. One in which Zauna (Loreece Harrison) who is black sums up pretty white boys Jonty’s career by saying ‘You are white and beautiful, I am black.’ People are not interested in her story. The leaking of naked photos of Amber on the net when she and Jonty become involved also brings consequences. Jonty also claims to turn off the camera when he gets Amber in the bedroom. He doesn’t and winks to the audience.
Followers (2021) gets silly with chanting, parties and a ghostly appearance at a Halloween rave up. Astonishingly horrid gore in the film towards the end and during dance sequences when blood runs out of dancers’ mouths. This all builds to an odd ending and also sees one character move front and centre for the first time.
Followers (2021) is shot well with a good use of sets. An attempt is made to make the frame look like a social media site without distracting the viewer. The effects are practical and do work well even in the most ludicrous of situations when a drifter who is one of Becky’s patients attacks people.
Followers (2021) is at its best when it does social commentary. Lovely look at the people who watch this material in life showing how divisive, shallow, and dangerous comments are when you demand as one person does to see Amber’s boobs because ‘it’s what the people want’. The story misses some intriguing subplots that could have made for more texturing and development. These subplots would give the characters and the actors in their roles something to chew on. Solid bubble gum instead of flavours that disappears after a few minutes.
Followers is out now on digital platforms in North America from Terror Films