Among the many annoying things the Internet has spawned are social media ‘stars’ and ‘influencers’. It’s those who form the basis of Followers.
Jonty (Harry Jarvis) is a self-proclaimed influencer, who has managed to get into a college to start a ‘journey’, in which he will document every move of himself and his housemates. After a few days, some strange things start happening. Loud rave music comes from the walls and the cupboards begin banging open and shut. Being an egotistical idiot, Jonty wants to be the centre of spectral attention, but he gets everyone else involved too. Zauna (Loreece Harrison) is a budding documentary maker so is on board with filming everything. Pete (Daniel Cahill) is a hot-headed Scot who is initially hostile to everything until the world starts paying attention. Amber (Erin Austen) is a love interest for Jonty, and this boosts his online profile. As his vlogs continue, the ghost reveals itself…
How much you get involved in Followers depends a lot on whether you can tolerate the deliberately annoying and not too exaggerated characters. All manner of YouTube types are lampooned too, not just the vacuous influencers. The conceit of having everything being filmed works naturally, though, and fortunately, there’s a good excuse to use proper cinematic cameras for the most part.
When the haunting side of the story starts, there are a couple of scares that work, and the conclusion brings some surprises. It’s the satire of online life that makes Followers interesting, though. Jonty is the worst type of person, but he’s a product of the time and bolstered by a viewing public keen to live vicariously through others. There’s also the touchy-feely student counsellor (played by Nina Wadia, soon to be seen in The Sandman), whose desperate use of ‘yoof’ lingo is excruciatingly on the nose.
Sadly, writer/director Marcus Herben died before Followers could be released, but it’s fair to say without his unique voice, it could have been just another found footage-type film. Fortunately, there’s enough wit amongst the scares to make it work.
Followers is in cinemas on March 18th.