We don’t need horror films to educate us about the dangers of social media. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper these days to learn about the invasion of our privacy that occurs constantly. Nonetheless, recent events involving Facebook and other major players add a certain frisson to Followers, Ryan Justice’s otherwise overly familiar entry in the now thoroughly played-out found-footage genre.
The film first introduces us to Brooke (Amanda Delaney) and Caleb (Justine Maina), a pair of vloggers (if you don’t know what that means, Followers isn’t for you) who are romantically as well as professionally entwined. The hard-bodied young people are prominent on social media, where they hype their fitness and yoga brands. As the story begins, they are undertaking a camping vacation in the Florida backwoods, not a surprising choice of destination because, well, camping excursions are a fertile environment for horror films.
Not as scary as recent news stories about Facebook.
They record and broadcast at least the first part of their journey, providing the opportunity for their fans, and us, to witness such highlights as their having a meal in a diner and singing along to the radio while driving. Caleb also confides to his viewers that he plans on asking Brooke to marry him during the trip. They eventually wind up deep in the woods, where they plan to finally relax since there’s no internet or cell phone service. They drink champagne and dance by a campfire, which inevitably leads to you know what. Caleb wants to film the event, while Brooke displays a rare shyness.
Roughly halfway through the film, the point of view intriguingly shifts to that of Nick (Nishant Gogna) and Jake (Sean Michael Gloria). The twentysomethings explain to the camera that they’ve randomly selected Brooke and Caleb as their “target couple” to highlight the dangers of exposing yourself on social media platforms. Tracking the YouTube celebrities entirely through their postings, they uncover their address and follow them on their road trip to prove that anyone’s real-time location can be determined with little difficulty.
While Nick’s intentions are mostly innocent if bumbling, Jake proves to have a far more sinister agenda when they finally confront the couple. The resulting confrontation becomes even more nightmarish with the unexpected appearance of the members of what appears to be a religious cult. Needless to say, copious blood gets spilled along the way.
While Followers certainly makes insightful points about our social-media obsessed era, it does so in tedious, uninvolving fashion. The found-footage, handheld camera approach becomes a visual endurance test. That the film lacks a screenwriting credit is made plainly evident by the apparent improvisation on display, with none of it proving very engaging. The third act plot twist that brings the film thoroughly into horror territory feels tacked on and gratuitous and is staged in wholly unconvincing fashion — even the blood looks fake. One can’t avoid the feeling that the film would have been far more effective as an absurdist social satire than yet another tired entry in the crowded horror marketplace.
Production: Justified Films/Entertainment
Cast: Amanda Delaney, Justin Maina, Sean Michael Gloria, Nishant Gogna, David E. McMahon
Director: Ryan Justice
Producers: Ryan Justice, Jason Henne, Ian Longen
Director of photography: Karl Huber