Frightfest 2022: ‘Follow Her’ Review

Stars: Dani Barker, Luke Cook, Eliana Jones, Mark Moses, Crystal Carter, Brian Vincent, Justin L. Wilson, Lorraine Farris | Written by Dani Barker | Directed by Sylvia Caminer 

Struggling actor and moderately successful live-streaming star Jess Peters has found her way into the zeitgeist. By secretly filming creepy interactions she encounters via online job listings, she uses the kinks and weirdness of others for Internet success. For her next episode she’s hired to write the ending of a screenplay, which leads her to a cabin in the woods with Tom, the self-proclaimed writer. But reading the script, Jess realises she is the main character and Tom is not who he seems…

There has been, in recent years, a plethora of films that look at the “horrors” of the internet – be it social media, a total lack of privacy etc., etc.; films like Cam, The Den, Unfriended and Host. However Follow Her takes things a step further and throws in the horrors of the gig economy, an economy that is thriving right now. It feels more akin to Spree, the social media rideshare horror, than the aforementioned webcam fear flicks.

We all know the horror stories, the rumours, about “freaks” online. People who aren’t who they say they are; who are just trying to get their freak on at the expense of others… And nowhere are those stories more prevalent than on the likes of Craigslist. Which means this is NOT the first horror film to use online jobs listings as its basis – just look at Kevin Smith’s Tusk, which took a hoax ad from the UK version of Craigslist, Gumtree, and turned it into a bat-shit crazy genre film! Here writer and star Dani Baker and director Sylvia Caminer cleverly play with audience’s expectations regarding meeting strangers online IRL to craft a film that plays with the cliches and tropes we’d anticipate seeing in this type of horror movie brilliantly!

For Follow Her takes the idea of online job listings as the central premise – as our protagonist Jess, who goes by the moniker J-Peeps online profession, uses these job listings to earn money. However she also mines the situations she gets into for her own social media status. A side gig if you will; one that pokes fun at the oddballs and freaks she comes across. But, as other genre films will attest, using people for your own ill-gotten gains will come back to haunt you… literally in the cases of some horror films!

The film starts out feeling very much like we’re in for the kinds of “torture-porn” flick that proliferated the genre in the early 2000s, with Jess walking into the clutches of Tom, a man who’s clearly masquerading his true intentions. He’s the proto-typical cinematic creep – under-handed, duplicitous and clearly manipulating the situation. But… so is Jess. She knows the kinds of weird situations she’s walking into, even if she acts all innocent and unknowing. That’s a front, much like the accents she puts on and the hair extensions she wears. It’s all a disguise to hide the real Jess, even she knows you shouldn’t be the “real” you out there on the internet for all to see (and track you down). This means that Jess and Tom are actually on equal footing going into this.

Yet for all the audience’s expectations Follow Her turns things on their head and like Tom doesn’t expect Jess’ acceptance of the situation – both enjoying the experience and fighting against it without fear – the audience doesn’t expect a film that is less about the torture of Jess and more about those SHE’S wronged getting revenge! For even Follow Her knows you shouldn’t believe everything you see… and when the film’s denouement hits, you realise that the film is about much more than one person’s online identity, instead it’s about the dangers we all face in a surveillance-led, social media world.

**** 4/5

Follow Her screened as part of this year’s Arrow Video London Frightfest. 

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by Phil Wheat

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