My notes on Follow Her
An issue with online celebs – influencers, vloggers, youtube pranksters, etc – is that each one needs to have a unique angle to draw attention, to screech ‘me me me’ at an audience who are already inclined to scroll down to the next microbyte of entertainment/enlightenment without clicking like or subscribe. That’s one of the subjects of Sylvia Caminer’s Follow Her, which is written by its star Dani Parker, but also a problem the film itself faces – there have in the last year or so been over a dozen horror/suspense films in which online celebs get some sort of comeuppance. Comment is passed on all sorts of pressing contemporary issues, and this particular example picks up on threads about male-female relationships that align it with CAM and Scare Me as much as Dashcam, Follow Me, Shook, Deadstream, Death of a Vlogger, etc. It’s a solid, twisty paranoid thriller with an edge and a lot to say, but would have had a lot more impact if it were the first film with this thumbnail rather than the umpteenth. The internet has sped up trends and crazes so much that cutting edge can become coattail-riding in the time it takes to get a movie together and submitted to festivals. On its own, Follow Her is effective – and has some nice reversals, surprises, character beats and subtle chills, plus an ending that offers additional creepiness and sequel potential.
Jess Peters (Barker) aka J-PEEPS has a particular schtick – she answers classified ads she knows are misleading and exposes the kinks of the guys who offer apparent job opportunities but just want to be tied up or tickled or otherwise satisfied. So far, it’s all been fun and games – but even having a successful viral clip only earns her fifteen dollars, and that’s with a technical glitch that means the face of a tickle freak isn’t blurred as it should be. Her father (Mark Moses) wants to sell the apartment she’s been living in rent-free and her pal/rival/peer Kai (Eliana Jones) lets her down when she asks her to be backup on what seems like an obviously dangerous enterprise – answering an ad from Tom B (Luke Cook), who claims to be writing a Hitchcockian erotic thriller and wants a female writer to roleplay or brainstorm an ending.
This involves leaving the city for a rural nowhere and spending time in a converted barn with a dodgy WiFi connection – but the power dynamic between two people who are putting up a pretence isn’t as straightforward as it might be, and there’s a great deal of ‘I know that you know that I know’ simmering as heat is generated between the couple, with many, many ominous nods (an under-the-bed nudge is especially shuddery). A lot of horror movie conventions – creepy masks, confinement, a handily-placed axe, an avenging horde of prior victims, Jigsaw-type vigilante psychos – are deployed, but also played with. As with CAM, the lead actress/writer has a platform to interrogate her own position – and Jess gets to ask herself what she actually wants out of all this, providing she survives the night, even as the mercurial Tom (who has several accents) keeps pulling the rug out from under her. Many elements – like the roll of comments down the side of the screen and the moments when the livestream loses connection – have featured in other online-celeb horror movies, but Caminer does well by them here.