Review: Found footage horror thriller 'Followed' delivers scares
Courtesy of Global View Entertainment
Working as a hybrid of “Grave Encounters” meets “Paranormal Activity,” the new indie horror flick “Followed” manages to conjure legitimate thrills and scares, suggesting director Antoine Le has a bright career ahead of him.
Though “Followed” borrows much of its material from other, better, found-footage flicks, at least Le tries to deepen that model by introducing its protagonist as a rising Youtube vlogger. Told through the lens of an unseen entity clicking through archival footage on a laptop, we’re told at the beginning of the film these videos could only be seen on the dark web until now.
Enter Youtuber DropTheMike (Matthew Solomon) who is essentially the millennial version of Zak Bagans from “Ghost Adventures” and whose main goal is to debunk conspiracy theories on his channel. In an effort to land a hefty cash sponsorship from a clothing company, Mike is forced to pull out all the stops and spend three nights in L.A.’s most haunted mainstay, Hotel Lennox, the site of 123 murders and suicides since 1927. Mike plans to document the journey to his followers, despite the advice of his editor (Cailtin Utting), sound guy (Sam Valentine) and DP (Tim Drier) asking him to rethink the decision.
There is a psychological ploy that takes shape in “Followed,” and the film is somewhat inspired by The Cecil - a real-life hotel known for its murders and was the inspiration to “American Horror Story.” Screenwriter Todd Klick creates some interesting sequences for his characters to get entangled in: including The Elevator Game, an urban lore that states a lone rider can travel through multiple dimensions by pressing a certain sequential combination. Of course Mike, being the thrillseeker he is, attempts such a trivial mind-game, documenting the whole encounter, and immediately sticks a satanic target on himself and the crew’s back.
What entails is a descent into borderline madness as the squad encounters odd and ghoulish sightings (a room service cart with a severed tongue anyone?) and it sends them packing, except once the hotel has you, it’s difficult to escape.
Those are all troupes anyone whose a horror junkie will be able to pinpoint, but “Followed” doesn’t rely on gore and cheap thrills to dictate its story. Instead the filmmakers offer genuine characters who aren’t as disposable as the ones in a lame “Paranormal Activity” sequel which - considering the abundance of cheap found-footage flicks out there - is already a huge plus. Horror fans will also probably vibe with the atmospheric tension that boils in the background and the long walks down dark corridors that suggest “Followed” works at optimal levels when the lights are turned off (at least that worked for me). Not to mention, there’s a fair share of scares and frights that land their mark and when you’re purchasing tickets to a B-level horror flick, that’s all that really matters anyway.
Too often, you see a movie like “The Devil Inside” or “Devil’s Due” and you walk out feeling cheated, as if the final ten minutes had been chopped off in the editing bay. I can’t say the ending of “Followed” is any better than its cohorts - leaving plenty of unanswered questions - but the overall structure, pacing, and performances (look out for a cameo by John Savage!) certainly gives the viewer something to sink their teeth into.
FOLLOWED will open in select drive-ins across the country starting June 19th and will continue to expand throughout the month. Check your local listings.