Antoine Le’s directing debut Followedwon Best Horror Film at the Burbank International Film Festival this year, and for good reason. The film, written by Todd Klick and directed by Le, follows a vlogger named Mike, aka “DropTheMike,” as he explores a haunted hotel. The film is in the found footage style, with several sections of the film being “uploaded” via screen capture. The film stars Matthew Solomon as Mike, along with Sam Valentine, Tim Drier, Caitlin Utting and John Savage as hotel historian Wallace.
What I appreciate from this film from the start is that it does found footage right. It is a very finicky style, and one that can be said is a long dead cliché. But Followed succeeds in reinventing found footage for today’s audiences. You are not distracted by the screen capture element of it, and Le does not dwell on it at all. It is a seamless but vital part of the story being told. The underlying theme of Followed is the filmmakers’ commentary on millennial culture and its demand for content, as well as social media presence.
There are not too many jump scares, another refreshing thing given it is also a very easy yet tired scare. In a world always overly eager to use jump scares, Followedkeeps them useful and relevant to the story. That being said, the hotel becomes its own character, considering the history that is built for it. The Lennox Hotel in Followed is clearly meant to be the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, a hotel that has been fraught with supernatural and other evil goings on for decades. It is known historically for being the home of serial killer Richard Ramirez (In the film, the killer is renamed David Olmos, complete with a demonic symbol drawn on his palm.)
Recently though, the Cecil made headlines again with the mysterious case of Elisa Lam in 2013. Elisa was found dead in the hotel’s water tower, somehow managing to get inside it through locked doors, security alarms, and various other roadblocks. What was most baffling, though, was her behavior in an elevator before she presumably disappeared. In the video she is confused and erratic, talking to someone out of the security camera’s view, along with pushing several floor buttons before exiting. Followed leans heavily on the Lam story and one actual theory that she was playing a game called “The Elevator Game,” which supposedly sends you to a sort of mirror-verse, dark dimension. Followed dives in with this, which is admittedly the most creepy theory, and crafts their own dark goings on from there.
Mike, played by Matthew Solomon, is the classic sociopathic protagonist you see in most found footage, manipulating his friends into danger all for the possibility of fortune and fame. What Solomon succeeds with to carry the character farther is Mike’s development throughout the film, along with sincere moments of heart along the way. Tim Drier is an old soul as Christopher, the best friend and videographer, his wary nature brought on by his own supernatural experiences as a child along with a religious upbringing.
What I took away from the movie the most was something I don’t get very often reviewing horror films. I was genuinely scared. I found myself wanting to plug my ears or cover my eyes, dreading what I would see next. This does not come easily for me anymore. Followed has done just that with me, too. I keep finding myself going back and thinking about the film, getting a chill down my spine, and having to shake it off. In all areas, Followedhas snuck in, and it will with you too.