Followers Movie Review
A struggling social media influencer discovers the house he shares is haunted. The ghost brings him and his friends fame and fortune, but with deadly consequences.
Welcome back to Knockout Horror. Today we are reviewing Social Media Themed British horror movie Followers. Can you believe it? Only days after putting out a list of 12 Social Media Themed Horror Movies. We are taking a look at another influencer based horror? Seems a bit stupid really, doesn’t it? Do I add this one to the list? Do I write a new list? Meh, that’s a decision for later. Right now, we need to look at a very below average horror movie with a tragic backstory.
A Quick Apology
In the grand scheme of things, Knockout Horror is still a very new site. I have had the site running since 2019. But, within days of starting it. A relative became sick and the site had to go on the backburner. The next two years or so were spent dealing with family losses, moving house and whatnot. I barely added anything to the site but kept it running. I started adding to the site frequently in September of last year and haven’t let off the gas since.
Nowadays, I update at least five times a week. It is more like every day, to be fair. Despite this, with the site being new, our audience reach is not tremendous. Still, I know there is a number of people that check the site frequently and do read new reviews. You may have noticed that I haven’t added to the site this week and I apologise for that. I will still be adding frequently. This isn’t me going back to old habits. This is me dealing with a busy week and lots of jobs to do on my car. Regular updates will resume shortly. This week will just be a little out of the ordinary.
Now you may be wondering why I am mentioning this? The reasons are quite simple. I don’t know how much I can actually say about this movie. It really isn’t very good. With this in mind. Why not pad the review out a bit with a bunch of bullshit chatter? I mean, I have to satisfy the Gods of the search engine, right? Now that is out of the way, on with the review.
A Tragic Story – The Death of Marcus Harben
Followers has a bit of a tragic history attached to it. A history that I think bears mention. From what I can tell. The person who directed this movie never got to see it in its final form. During production of Followers. Writer and director Marcus Harben was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. I believe the diagnosis actually came while the UK was under Covid Lockdown. Leaving him to, likely, have to turn his attention to treatment rather than work.
This is, obviously, a horrible thing to hear. We bag on bad movies in the horror community a lot. We all enjoy having a bit of a laugh at some of the crap that makes it to our screens. Perhaps, sometimes, forgetting the people that pour their hearts into these films. Marcus never had the opportunity to see the result of his work. Passing away in early 2021 leaving behind a family and many friends.
A Rudderless Ship
Marcus’ death probably factors in to the final product we see with Followers. The movie was left without a captain and robbed of the person whose vision brought it to life. This bears consideration when scoring the movie. Much of a director’s plans for the way a product looks. The way a movie sounds and the way it is presented. Comes from what happens when the cameras stop rolling. The majority of the film is put together in the editing studio. Its the place where a director will work hand in hand with an editor. Moulding, sculpting and bringing their vision to life.
If Harben wasn’t able to give his full attention to this part of the production. It is hard to imagine that the final product we see with Followers. Is actually the movie that he had in mind when he conceived it. It may be his vision. But it will have been built through someone else’s eyes. At times, Followers feels confused and directionless. I think it is important to remember that it lost the person who conceived it. It was confused, it was directionless, and it is all rather tragic.
Rest in Peace Marcus Harben
With all of that being said. I think it is important to pay tribute to the movie’s director and writer. Rest in peace to Marcus Harben. Cancer is something that impacts us all. I know it has claimed too many of my family members. It is an awful disease. Completely indiscriminate and all too willing to rob from you mercilessly.
His family will now live in the shadow of this tragedy for the rest of their lives. Just as Followers does. It is a tremendously sad situation. Harben collaborated with illustrator Dave Turbitt when he received his diagnoses. Putting together the comic Weird Things That Happened When I Got The Fucking Cancer. I thoroughly encourage you to check it out. It is both touching and hilarious. Now on with the review.
More Social Media Themed Horror
So, with the above being said, I am now going to be a bit horrible about the movie. I just want it to be taken into consideration that the final product might not match the vision. Followers is another social media themed horror movie. This is a subject matter that has really taken off in horror over recent years. Did I mention that I just put together a list of Social Media Themed Horror? Of course I did but another plug doesn’t harm anyone.
Whereas earlier horror movies from the 2010s touched on the subject. They presented social media as more of a meeting place. A location if you will. Movies like Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, and The Den all take place online. Featuring characters chatting over social media websites and via webchat services like Skype. In recent years, however, horror movies have mixed things up a little bit.
The focus has now moved on to Social Media Influencers. Taking the world’s recent obsession with social media celebrities. Individuals like Logan Paul and Mr Beast for example. And using that as a starting point. Movies like Deadstream, Superhost and Sissy. Present characters that are famous in the world of social media. Offering them up to the viewer warts and all. Before digging deep into the flawed. Sometimes self obsessed natures of these attention seeking personalities. The result is movies that can differ wildly in presentation. But all follow a fairly similar blueprint.
And that is where Followers comes in. We are introduced to posh twat social media influencer Jonty Craig. A complete toff acting online as a cool and “with it” personality. A recent bigoted rant of Jonty’s was caught on camera. Leading to his influencer status diminishing and him becoming somewhat disgraced. Desperate to get his popularity back. Jonty begins presenting his life like a reality show. After moving into student accommodation with a couple of other people. He learns that the house has a sordid past. Keen to profit off of the situation. Jonty sees an opportunity to regain his fame, whatever the cost.
Followers is presented in a number of different styles. It is a mix of found footage and traditional style filming. Seeming to be mainly shot from the point of view of Jonty, at first. The movie quickly transitions to a mix of different approaches. We have reality TV style, point of view, stuff from different characters. Videos from online social media sites. Actual traditional camera work and even news footage. There are quite a few different elements at play here. The overall aim, however, is fairly clear. Followers is supposed to feel fresh, modern and very familiar to people who spend a lot of time online.
A Small Cast
Focusing, primarily, on the student accommodation that Jonty lives in. The cast of characters here is fairly small and very typical of horror. We have annoying, obnoxious, posh boy Jonty. Angry Scottish mature student Pete. The busty chick with daddy issues, Amber, and the smart and sensible one Zauna. It’s something of Scooby Doo-esque presentation of characters. Each having a clearly defined and predictable personality. Each moving the story forward in their own way. There’s really nothing ground breaking here. It’s about as stereotypical of a cast as you can get.
A cast of side characters is drip fed in but only a few of them are important to the plot. Naturally, with such a small cast, personalities clash frequently. The dynamic between the group is somewhat volatile. With characters all guided by their own personal motivations. Jonty and Amber are both social media influencers. Zauna is a documentary maker who sees an opportunity to tell her story. And Pete is fond of alcohol. The conflicting personalities lead to some effective scenes of interpersonal tension. As well as keeping things moving along as their intentions become more clear.
Whereas Zauna wishes to document what is happening from a factual standpoint. Jonty simply wants to gain followers and will do this however he can. He is determined to capture evidence of ghosts. Even if said evidence comes from a less than honest place. It is pretty basic stuff and exactly what you would expect given the theme. Characters react predictably to situations. And there is little in the way of surprise.
Aimed at a Young Crowd
I probably don’t even have to say this. Followers is horror for teens. This is not a movie that is likely to appeal to older people. The social media influencer approach is front and centre. The problem is, however. I don’t think younger people will buy into this concept. I don’t think it will feel very authentic to them. Followers feels like influencer content. As viewed through the eyes of someone in their late 40s. There is a distinct feeling of parody to everything. As if it was a story written by a parent about a teenager’s interests. The social media influencer element feels insincere and a bit tacked on.
This wouldn’t be such a big problem if it wasn’t such a huge part of the story. But it is; it forms the entire basis of the film. Everything that happens in the movie is motivated by the social media aspect. Jonty starts out with around 70,000 subscribers. Hardly an influencer. As his increasingly fake looking videos debut. He gains hundreds of thousands of followers with each upload. The movie frequently cuts to people discussing the videos. Each of these people having millions of subscribers and millions of views. It all looks a bit silly, it is a bit unrealistic and feels rather cheap.
Shoehorned in Social Media Aspect
That speaks to the bigger problem with Followers. At its heart, Followers is a rather traditional haunted house story. The social media stuff is shoe horned in purely to make the movie appeal to younger people. If it was done well, then this movie may have stood out. People may have lauded it for taking a different approach to traditional horror. Much in the way that Deadstream did earlier this year. That just isn’t the case, though. Whereas Deadstream almost feels like a version of The Evil Dead for the social media age. Followers simply feels like a bad haunted house tale. With a poorly matched presentation.
As the story kicks off. Jonty’s self narrated videos immediately lend the film a sense of cheapness. There is a plastic veneer feeling to what you see. Completely unauthentic and missing the believable approach of similar social media themed horror. I can’t help but think it was made by someone with a cursory understanding of influencer content. In the words of Gen Z, it all feels a bit cheugy; and I say that as a millennial. The presentation style here is extremely try hard and a little bit off putting. Despite this, the majority of the movie is so poor. That the social media style presentation is, simultaneously, all Followers has to offer.
A Messy Story with No Scares
Very little works here. The movie is devoid of scares and the plot feels painfully familiar. A story that starts in a fairly interesting manner. Quickly falls foul of confusing writing and an overactive narrative. Followers attempts to throw a number of horror tropes into the pot. All with little success. Bangs on the walls, a town with a history of murders, a haunted house. Shadows and spectres caught on camera. Night vision explorations of basements. You have seen it all before. There is absolutely nothing new.
Characters offer little to care about and the movie is keen to play to type. Presenting stereotypes that feels somewhat out of place in modern horror. Viewers have limited desire for characters who are little more than walking cleavages. Not to mention the all too familiar and exhausted rich white man with no tact. The cast here lacks nuance and feels old fashioned. Despite the timely subject of social media influencers.
Genuinely Awkward at Times
Scenes range from being a little poor to laughably bad. Actually creating a few moments of toe curling awkwardness. Causing one to wonder why said scenes were ever put to film. A couple of segments stand out for just how ridiculous they are. If I was to say “Ghost dancing on a table complete with excessive strobe lighting”. I am sure I wouldn’t be spoiling too much. But you would get a nice sense for just how embarrassing some parts of this movie can be. No amount of editing or special effects could have made some of these scenes work.
Harben occasionally touches on important subjects of intimate photo theft and institutional racism. But these themes also fall foul of the lacklustre presentation of the movie. It all feels a bit tacked on and insincere. As the movie goes on, the story drowns in its convoluted and poorly formulated narrative. Eventually wrapping things up with a shoulder shrug of an ending. Leaving the viewer short changed and a likely a bit frustrated. There is just so little to recommend here.
A Few Chuckles
Followers can, however, evoke a few chuckles here and there. Marcus Harben was clearly a witty writer. The movie can be quite amusing at times. Certain characters have some genuinely comical interactions. With Pete, in particular, offering up a giggle or two. There are some clever observations of the vapid and pointless nature of influencer content, as well.
With this being said, however. It doesn’t have enough humour to live up to its comedy horror billing. Much of it completely misses. Just like many other elements of the movie. Cinematography is bad. This is an ugly looking movie even by Found Footage horror standards. British found footage movies often tend to be a bit cheap looking. Especially when compared to their American and European equivalents. I am not sure why.
Acting is a Mixed Bag
Acting is a real mixed bag. I think Loreece Harrison, as Zauna, stands out for her performance. She almost feels a bit out of place compared to the rest of the cast. She plays her role incredibly straight laced and seriously. Everyone else feels a bit lacking in comparison. She is the only character that doesn’t feel like a parody.
Harry Jarvis, as Jonty, feels awkward. He has some decent moments of humour but Jonty is not believable as an influencer. Whether this is down to Jarvis or the writing is up for debate. Jarvis doesn’t quite nail the hyperbolic and histrionic delivery of an influencer. I don’t think I heard him say “Alright Guys!!!” a single time. Can you even be an influencer with saying that at least five times a video? I don’t think so.
Now I know nepotism is a touchy subject at the moment but I couldn’t help but notice. Harry’s mother and father Steve and Tracy Jarvis are producers on this movie. I don’t think we need to call Columbo to find out whether he earned this role or not. I think he had some help from family and it shows. Daniel Cahill does nail the angry Scottish dude role, though. He’s the recipient of some of the funnier lines in the movie and does a good job.
An Influencer Appearance and Sooooo Much Cleavage
Amber’s character falls foul of being there, pretty much, for titillation. Wearing some insanely low cut tops. And tasked with making her dramatic scenes both affecting and alluring. Erin Austen does as much as she can with her part. There isn’t much for her to work with given her character, though. I had the distinct sense that certain scenes were probably a bit awkward for her. Likely demanding cries of “more boob jiggle” and “30% more cleavage” from the director.
I imagine she has a lot more to offer than this. I’m not opposed to these types of characters. Excessive amounts of boobage will always have its place in horror and I am here for it. But at least give the actor something else to work with. Let them actually act as well as look good. Don’t just make their characters two dimensional eye candy. Daniel Cahill, as Pete, gets opportunities to flex both his muscles and his acting chops. Why not the attractive women characters, as well? I guess men just suck at writing those types of roles.
Veteran actor Nina Wadia is spot on as the quirky, slightly cringey, therapist Becky. Having been a staple of British TV for years. It’s always great to see her and she does a brilliant job. A fleeting appearance by actual English influencer Tanya Burr feels a bit on the nose. Her American accent is a bit hammy and forced but she is fine. I think she was only in the movie for some added social media credibility.
Is It a Knockout?
Absolutely not! Followers is one of those movies that you throw on hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Offering very little in the way of scares. This is a movie keen to play to type and full of played out horror tropes. The social media influencer theme is extremely lacking and feels a bit forced. Characters are poorly written; representing old fashioned, uninteresting, stereotypes. There are limited laughs and no scares. There is just so little to recommend. You may get a chuckle or two here or there. You may enjoy some of the social media style presentation. But the positives are heavily outweighed by the negatives.
As I mentioned above. The death of Marcus Harben likely impacted this movie a lot. We can never be sure of whether what we are seeing is what he envisioned. Much of the humour and presentation may have been lost to the editing room floor. And that has to be considered when reviewing this movie.
As it stands, however, Followers is just a bad horror movie. It is extremely sad that Harben never had the chance to grow from this. Who knows what his next project would have been? Who knows how this movie would have turned out had Marcus been given the chance to commit to it 100%? Movie making is incredibly difficult. It takes immense skill to put together even a bad movie. Harben deserves praise for making this happen. Especially while having only limited time left to live. Followers is his legacy but I very much doubt it is the limit of his talents. It is, at its core, an unfinished project. Offering little more than a tribute to a horror movie maker gone too soon. Rest in peace, dude!
|Release Date:||18th March 2022|
|Movie Type:||Horror, Found Footage, Comedy|
|Movie Length:||87 Min|
|Starring:||Harry Jarvis, Erin Austen, Loreece Harrison, Daniel Cahill, Nina Wadia, Rhys Yates, Tanya Burr|
|Directed By:||Marcus Harben|
|Written By:||Marcus Harben|
|Produced By:||Giles Alderson, Tracy Jarvis, Steve Jarvis|
|Parental Guidance:||Language, violence, self harm, suicide, nudity|