There’s a whole laundry list of genre entries stretching the limits of the found footage concept within the confines of the horror film. But of all of these, Followed, a two year-old feature finally seeing the light of day at drive-ins around the country, comes closer to making it work than many of its peers.

Rather than the well-worn trope of someone finding a VHS tape or a camcorder with spooky goings-on captured inside, the film begins more like such computer screen pictures as Unfriended or Searching. Followed focuses on YouTuber Michael, aka DropTheMike, who vlogs exclusively about horror movies, real world hauntings and serial killer stories. He’s exactly as obnoxious as he sounds, with actor Matthew Solomon weaponizing every ounce of influencer cringe to turn the character’s charisma against himself.

Followed opens on Michael’s MacBook desktop, efficiently burning through a ton of exposition by powering through stories about how the vlogger has gone missing after a visit to the cursed Lennox Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. By bringing us into the story through Mike’s own videos, and similar online content created around his disappearance, director Antoine Le, making his feature debut, uses the strengths of internet video–the brevity and breathless pace–to create a lot of drama in no time flat. But, as with any found footage exercise, the filmmakers strain credulity to keep the narrative moving.

There winds up being a little too much “behind the scenes” footage within Michael’s published videos, so we can see the conflicts within his creative team about his dedication to doing dangerous, spooky shit for views. But rather than having to rely on a weirdo with a camcorder who just likes to record stuff, like a lot of these movies, the film hones in on Michael’s dissociation from reality and his obsession with his channel succeeding. As we get into the actual hotel footage and the jump scares start to mount, motivation becomes clearer. For instance, why do the characters stick around? It turns out that Michael needs to reach a subscriber goal to secure a big sponsorship and prove to his wife he can be a real breadwinner, and that feels like a believable context.

More to the point, spending this time with Michael and his grating media personality makes the descent into horror show histrionics so much satisfying. The longer the audience watches his irreverent persona and his irritating ambition, the more viewers long to see one of the movie’s many ghost stories come to life and deliver unto him some serious comeuppance.

But as thrilling and streamlined a tale as this is, in the third act, things fall apart. The film’s final twist is underwhelming and doesn’t match in intensity or verve the build-up that presupposes it. For a movie following an annoying guy with a camera who constantly goes too far, it all winds up as a horror film that doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Bottom Line
A horror film that doesn’t go nearly far enough.
55 %
Almost Worthwhile
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