Followed Movie Review
To gain more subscribers, a controversial social media influencer stays at a cursed hotel to terrifying results.
Welcome to Knockout Horror and to a Horror Movie Review. We are taking a look at yet another Social Media themed horror movie today – Followed. Directed by Antoine Le, Followed is a mix of Found Footage and a little bit of Screenlife horror. Following a social media influencer as he investigates a haunted hotel. This movie feels a lot like the very watchable Deadstream. Only, it preceded it by a couple of years.
A Familiar Story
Followed follows the story of social media influencer Mike. Mike runs a successful vlogging channel where he investigates the paranormal. After hearing about a young woman who died in a downtown LA hotel. He becomes inundated by viewer requests to investigate. The hotel appears to have a rather sordid past. Having been home to a notorious serial killer years before. As well as being the scene of many unexplained deaths. With a sponsorship deal on offer and his fans desperate for him to go. Mike assembles a crew and heads to the hotel. A decision he may come to regret.
So before we get started. It is worth pointing out that there are a number of elements of this story that are very familiar. As you can see from the description above. A notorious downtown Los Angeles hotel that housed a serial killer. A woman who died after mysterious footage of her acting bizarrely in a lift came to light. Residents noticing a strange smell coming through the air vents. You could be forgiven for feeling a distinct sense of Deja-vu.
Very Real Inspirations
The reason for that is because Followed adopts the stories of some real life tragedies. Boldly claiming, in its trailer, to be based on true events. This isn’t strictly true. Followed isn’t based on true events. Followed simply takes some true stories and clumsily weaves them into its plot.
The hotel the group are investigating is called the Lennox. Which is actually modelled after the very famous, and very notorious, Cecil hotel. The Cecil hotel was afforded a terrible reputation. Not only was it located in the deprived area of Skid Row. And the scene of numerous suicides, murders and assaults. It was also home to the serial killer Richard Ramirez, AKA The Night Stalker.
The Cecil Hotel’s sordid past has been the inspiration for a number of horror movies. The continual misfortune of the building and the people associated with it. Offer a never ending source of real life terror for those looking to write horror stories. It isn’t just these said real life events that haunt the Cecil hotel, though. It is widely thought to be inhabited by the spirits of the unlucky souls who have passed there. Whether by malicious intent or simple misadventure.
The Case of Elisa Lam
The Cecil Hotel was most recently brought to the public’s attention, however. In the death of Elisa Lam. Lam was a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder. Likely experiencing a manic episode. She decided, on a whim, to travel from her home in Canada. All the way to the downtown district of Los Angeles in the USA. While there she booked a stay at The Cecil Hotel. At that time renamed to the Stay on Main.
Guests noted her strange behaviour. Likely under-medicating and deep in a psychotic episode. She was acting erratically and unsettling the people around her. Leading to a number of incidents involving the young woman. She was removed from an event in Burbank due to her strange behaviour. And she also had to be moved to a private room in the Cecil. Mainly as a result of her making the people in her dorm upset and on edge.
Famous Elevator Footage
Lam, unfortunately, made her way to the roof of the building through a staff door. A door that was, tragically, not locked despite being fitted with an alarm. She found her way into a water container and drowned. Leading to a situation not too dissimilar to the horror movie Black Water. In which residents of the building complained about foul tasting water. Lam’s case was brought to light by the emergence of an elevator security video.
The video depicted Lam acting strangely. Making bizarre gestures, appearing to talk to someone, and generally acting odd. Lam would perish shortly after this video was taken. After its release, the video captivated the public. Many of whom believed it to be evidence of hauntings at the hotel. Naturally, anyone with experience of Bipolar Disorder will recognise the truth. As a sufferer myself. This is a clear cut case of a manic high leading to psychosis. The gestures, the strange behaviour, the elaborate mannerisms. These are all traits of mania.
People’s desire for the dramatic has lead to many conspiracy theories. The sad truth is, however, this was a young woman with a serious mental health disorder. She was under-medicating, as reported in her autopsy. And she had a history of hallucinations during manic episodes It’s a fairly clean cut case. This hasn’t stopped the death of Elisa Lam being milked by movie and TV horror makers. That’s where Followed comes in.
Borrowing Liberally from Real Life
Followed borrows heavily from these very events. The Lennox hotel that the group are investigating is a facsimile of The Cecil Hotel. They reference a Satan worshiping serial killer similar to Richard Ramirez. They talk of the depravity in the areas around the location. And they even mention and show elevator footage of a Korean woman who was found dead at the hotel. Followed has, literally, no ideas of its own.
Whereas questions of taste, inevitably, arise. Especially with regards to using Elisa Lam’s tragic death for light entertainment. As well as creating a fictional version of a horrifying serial killer. That type of thing is, pretty much, par for the course nowadays. Especially when it comes to things like American Horror Story. And let’s not forget certain specific Netflix productions. It bears mention, though. Followed has a nasty tendency to play to trend. Its general lack of creativity is rather starkly apparent.
Social Media Influencer Horror
This is even more obvious when you consider the presentation of the movie. Followed feels just like every other found footage that came before it. The only major difference is the social media influencer based style. Reminiscent of movies like Deadstream, Superhost and Followers. Followed actually preceded all of them by a few years. Naturally, as I always mention, Found Footage is about as divisive as horror genres come. Some love the DIY style while others absolutely hate it. When you combine that with a social media influencer lead character. You are sure to split your audience even further.
Unlike Deadstream which followed our protagonist livestreaming events. The things that happen in Followed are shown retrospectively. Our cast of characters are at the hotel investigating the hauntings. While there, they film scenes for videos which are edited and uploaded shortly after. We watch the videos in sequence. As played on a computer screen by some unknown person.
Naturally, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Much of what we see here would never have been uploaded. Yet we see it take place anyway. Some of the things that occur make little sense and everything feels a bit messy. Still, this is just the way the movie is presented. It isn’t particularly crucial to the plot. After all, this is supposed to be a story told by a social media influencer. Incidentally, this leads to one of Followed’s major issues.
A Terrible Protagonist
Our lead character, Mike, is an utterly obnoxious person. He is, basically, Logan Paul turned up to 11. Completely unlikeable and incredibly difficult to care about. He frequently indulges in the type of humour that wouldn’t even appeal to 12 year olds. He is loud, annoying and, generally, a bit offensive. When you are about to spend over an hour with this person. This is an enormous problem. Especially when you are expected to actually give a shit about them.
Mike really doesn’t develop as a character, either. He remains unlikeable throughout and really hampers the story progression. I found him impossible to care about. This really robs the movie of much of its horror. There is no real gravity to the events that take place. Making it extremely difficult to actually invest in what is happening.
This is something of a shame. There are a couple of decent scares in this film. One scene in particular could have been especially effective. Had it simply featured a character that wasn’t completely detestable. As it stands, so much focus is placed on Mike that the movie suffers massively for it. On top of that, much of the story isn’t fleshed out.
A Poorly Fleshed Out Story
This is something that really stands out with Followed. It seriously lacks in story structuring and development. This is made all the worse by writer Todd Klick borrowing so heavily from reality. So much of the story’s background is drawn from actual real life events. That when it comes to crafting something original and effective. The writers simply seem to give up. The actual lore is barely established and poorly explained. Events that take place seem disconnected and inconsequential. On top of that, an ending that hints at something intriguing. Doesn’t really end up going anywhere and, basically, shrugs its shoulders at the viewer. You can’t help but feel a little bit underwhelmed.
There’s a distinct feeling of laziness with Followed. As if the makers had no desire to really get balls deep into the story crafting. Instead content to use one to one copies of real life events to establish plot. Removing the references to Elisa Lam. Setting the movie in a completely different location. Avoiding the Richard Ramirez style serial killer nods. And coming up with a few originals ideas would have benefitted this movie. I am sure these elements only exist to earn Followed some internet credibility. It feels a bit sad and a bit low effort.
It would be remiss of me to not point out that this type of thing has been done before. Characters based on real life killers are commonplace in horror. Often with amazing success. But here it feels little more than cheap. This is a movie that was keen to hop onto a trend. Content to ride with it for better or for worse. Something it definitely deserves criticism for.
Fairly Watchable in Parts
Despite all of this. Followed is a fairly watchable movie in parts. If you can make it past the detestable main character. Ignore the second by second copy of the Elisa Lam video. Brush off the needless imitation of Richard Ramirez. And you don’t mind the found footage presentation. There is some fairly decent horror.
The cast of characters has distinctly different views on what is happening. There is an underlying sense of tension between the characters. The use of prescription sleeping aids adds a reason to question what is happening. And the ultimate dissension between the group adds a few layers to the horror. Dividing our characters and increasing the level of threat.
A scene featuring Mike playing the Elevator Game in a lift works quite well. This is another internet reference. In this case that of an urban legend frequently mentioned on Reddit No Sleep. But it works and provides some competent horror creepiness. There are some fairly decent moments of tension. One of which being a pursuit scene that is actually nicely done. Feeling quite intense and pretty effective. The ending ramps things up a bit, as well. Its just a shame that the main character is so difficult to care about.
Social Media and Found Footage
The social media aspect works pretty well. These types of movies are a little bit marmite and likely to divide. But if you enjoy them then Followed does a good job. It doesn’t go too over the top with the YouTube style video editing. Leaving most of the movie to play out like a standard Found Footage horror. The parts that feel like social media videos work well. They feel pretty genuine. I did notice a massive problem with the sound mixing, though. The music is way too loud in parts. Drowning out the speech in a big way.
Camera work is okay. It gets a bit shaky here and there which can be a little off putting. Still, this movie came out at a time when Found Footage had long since been mastered. There are far fewer of the issues that plagued early movies from this genre. There are some very nice shots of the LA skyline at night. Some of the visual effects work quite well, as well.
Acting is fine. Mike is a loathsome character but Matthew Solomon nails the delivery. He was, obviously, supposed to play the character like this and he does a good job. Sam Valentine and Tim Drier, as Dani and Chris, are decent. Playing as something of a logical, calm, foil to Mike’s eccentric and impulsive nature. The cast is fine, overall, and does a decent job.
Is It a Knockout?
Followed is one of those movies that may just scratch a very particular itch. If you are looking for a found footage horror with a strong social media leaning. This might do it. I would suggest you actually check out Deadstream. It is very similar yet much better. But Followed is competent enough as a movie in this niche. It has a few effective scenes. The social media elements feel genuine and aren’t overdone. And some people may enjoy the references to real life events. Many of which the internet is utterly obsessed with.
It also suffers from some major issues. The biggest of which is a main character that is incredibly difficult to like. Mike is obnoxious and drags the movie down with him. Making it difficult to invest in the events taking place. An overreliance on internet popular subjects doesn’t help matters. Leaving the story poorly fleshed out and somewhat messy. Still, this is a watchable movie. Fans of Found Footage may find plenty to enjoy.
|Release Date:||12th June 2020|
|Movie Type:||Horror, Mystery, Found Footage|
|Movie Length:||96 Min|
|Starring:||Matthew Solomon, John Savage, Sam Valentine, Tim Drier, Caitlin Grace, Kelsey Griswold|
|Directed By:||Antoine Le|
|Written By:||Todd Klick|
|Produced By:||Matthew Ryan Brewbaker, Antoine Le, Todd Klick|
|Parental Guidance:||Language, horror scenes|