Internet horror is so hot right now. And why shouldn’t it be? Facebook is stealing our data, Twitter is turning us all into hate-filled monsters, and Instagram is…well, according to new movie Followers, it’s our vanity that will be our real downfall, so perhaps Instagram is the worst platform of all.
The flick stars newcomers Amanda Delaney and Justin Maina as an obnoxious YouTube couple who share every second of their existence with millions of anonymous online faces, only to find themselves targeted by a film-making duo looking to make them pay for oversharing.
Hipsters Jake (Sean Michael Gloria) and Nick (Nishant Gogna) don’t have entirely noble intentions when they follow the hapless Brooke and Jake out into the woods, either. They’re making a documentary in an attempt to get noticed in their own right. One senses they’re jealous of how easy their subjects have it, almost that they wish they could be them in some way (particularly the besotted Nick).
It’s much easier to empathise with the opportunistic duo rather than the bland, self-involved couple they’ve chosen to profile. Brooke and Nick are the kind of online couple who continue their false, over-the-top dialogue even when the cameras aren’t rolling. They always seem on the edge of a fight, too, like they secretly hate each other and are only staying together for the money. UK readers will find notable comparisons to Zoella and Alfie.
Wisely, director Ryan Justice keeps the two just annoying enough that we still care what happens to them. Still, when gun-toting lunatics show up and start taking the couple to task for their potentially dangerous online behaviour, it’s undeniably cathartic watching them crumble in fear. We know these people. We watch these people. We want these people to suffer the consequences even though we’ve made them who they are.
As a horror movie, Followers couldn’t be more timely. We exist in a world where Logan Paul can show a dead body on his YouTube channel, offer a handful of fake, half-assed apologies and still get a million more followers, not to mention scores of people defending him online.
Followers doesn’t overstay its welcome, much to its credit. Care has been taken to ensure it looks and feels like it’s happening in real time (though the question of who put this footage together and why still hangs heavy), Unfriended-style. And, although it doesn’t boast that movie’s budget or cast, the story it chooses to tell is consistently thrilling and involving.
In fact, a third act apology (echoing the infamous speech from The Blair Witch Project) is wholly unnecessary, and forces one particular character into a martyr role that doesn’t quite fit, particularly given the strength and slickness of what’s come before. It’s a shame, because it ends Followers on a less nasty note than was perhaps needed, or intended.
Still, this is a fun, impressively well-shot and performed Internet horror movie whose tagline — beware what you share — is brilliantly conceived and fits the scenario perfectly. It’s tense, perfectly paced and packed with knowing nods to irritating online behaviours we all could learn to live without.
With stealth sequel Unfriended: Dark Web on the way shortly, the time is right. This should whet appetites for what’s to come, too, for those who can’t wait. Internet horror is here and to stay and, on this evidence, there’s still a frightening amount to say.
Catch Followers opens in select theaters, on Digital HD
and VOD on March 23, 2018
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Ryan Justice
Writer(s): Ryan Justice
Stars: Amanda Delaney, Justin Maina, Sean Michael Gloria, Nishant Gogna
Release date: March 23, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Justified Films
Length: 82 minutes
Subgenre: Internet horror